NOVEMBER

Just sitting here in Portland in the sunshine waiting for the tech from the gas company, who’s scheduled to come fix whatever is wrong with the gas fireplace in the condo. Service window from 12 noon to 4:00. Love the specificity.

But what’s going on at the farm? When I left to come up here this morning, Allen and crew were at work, transforming the scrubby area in front of the orchard to a grassy extension of lawn. This is Larry’s brainchild, and I think it’s going to be great. The area in question is the residue of the house-builder’s efforts with a bulldozer to level the site for the house. Leaving behind a scraped wasteland upon which nothing but a few anemic weeds have grown.

A little excitement yesterday when a passer-by reported to Animal Control that one of our cows was wandering down Llewellyn toward the bridge. See, we don’t really know what to do about this. The cow, or calf, certainly isn’t going to come along when we call. But we took the ATV down to see what the heck? The fence is pretty impenetrable — wire mesh topped with barbed wire, and the farm gates are closed with steel link chain.

On our way, we were greeted by Ms. Animal Control, who joined us at the site, and agreed that there was no way an animal could have breeched the enclosure. How many animals do we have?

Good question. We call Ryan. He says 20, 10 moms, 10 calves. We count 18. Two missing? No way two animals could be strolling down the street toward the creek. So Ms. A C leaves, assuring us that passers-by often call in when they misinterpret what they see, that cows, being herd animals, would be in a panic to rejoin their herd if they were indeed loose. Okay. We go back up to the house. We resume working. And then, there they were. All 20 cows, peacefully grazing in the adjoining pasture.

Not an exciting end to the story, but it did remind us that we are so clueless!

Here’s what we’ve been doing this month:

You can make out the fence under the fallen branches. This is along Muddy Creek, near the road, in front of an acre or so of land that is, weirdly, ours. Some earlier owner ran a fence on this line, probably because the land between it and the creek is a thicket of ash, poison oak, and unidentified weeds.

The fence was bent, but in place, so the effort to clear the branches was in service of esthetics, really. We have found, however, that untended windfall like this invites blackberry to come on over and colonize, so there is rational cause to clear, other than the pleasure of future bonfires and tidiness.

Took us three days to accomplish this. As you see, waiting down at the corner is another tree down, but that’s for another day. The thing is, we have to work when we can still drive the truck down there. This is wetland, so hard to say how long we have. We’ll try when we get back from California, and Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, when the rains do come and the county gives the go-ahead, here’s what we have ahead:

We’ll haul the firewood up to the shed, then torch the piles. Fun. Come on down. Bring your boots and raincoats.

It was bound to happen:

“JANE!”

“YEAH?”

“I’M LOCKED IN THE COOP!”

Okay, mustn’t laugh. “COMING!” Seems the cord thingy which enables a person inside the coop to spring the latch, should the door accidentally close, had gotten tangled. Right, you want to know why Larry was in the coop in the first place.

“What were you going to do if I’d happened to be inside, didn’t hear you? If I didn’t have my phone around?”

“Sleep with the chickens? Wait for you to miss me?”

Somehow it has become his job to clean the coop. A most noble undertaking, rather unpleasant. But there it is. Fine with me.

And what am I doing while Larry is heroically doing farm chores? The funny thing is, that life on the farm continues to have inside chores as well. Laundry. Cleaning. Cooking. Who knew?

Luckily, I do love to cook. One of the fun things is that one can’t just pop down to Safeway if one runs out of, say, butter. So there’s been a slight shift, in which I’m challenged to create a meal out of what’s on hand. What needs to be used up.

For instance. Last week I had one leek, a frozen slice of prosciutto, and of course, frozen chicken broth, in the larder. Found a recipe requiring all of the above. Didn’t have the required endive, but on the next trip to town, procured a half pound. Endive soup! Sounds a bit effete, something you might expect at a la-de-da dinner party, but it was really good.

Then, there was the smoked salmon chowder. Had a piece of the salmon slouched in a back corner of the freezer. Came from Eva’s husband, Mr. Outdoors himself. Only 3 years old. What if I made chowder with it and the sweet potato that obviously wasn’t going to be eaten any time soon? Must report that nothing I could do could save that yuck-o bowl of orangeness. Liquid smoke? Horseradish? White wine? Nope. One for the garbage disposal, and an inch off my self-congratulation exercises.

I’ll be in Portland until Monday, when we board the train for Los Angeles and the family Thanksgiving. Just can’t keep running up and down I-5 for no good reason, so here I am. Taking one for the team. In the meantime, hope that Gas Co. tech shows up. Been an hour and a half. Grrr . . .

But best wishes to you all for a happy holiday. See ya!

A LOT OF CRAZY

The whole thing started when Susan, our realtor for selling the condo, suggested that some prospective buyers were horrified at the amount of gardening they might inherit should they buy the place.

There is a lot of plant life out on the terrace, thanks to Kate Bryant, whose green thumb and hard work have made quite a show. And yeah, I wouldn’t want to take care of all that, either. But hey, we can use a lot of those pots down here at the farm, just needed to haul them down.

And for that sort of thing, we have Bob-the-Truck. Bob smells of the generations of mice who have lived and died under those faux leather seats and duct tape, so not a pleasant prospect, riding 100 miles up the freeway. Can’t listen to music, story, as Bob is not so equipped. Conversation is difficult thanks to the noise, so we have only scenery and our private thoughts to amuse us on the way.

A note to explain that you can’t get where you’d like to go in Portland lately with all the new construction, street alterations, bikes, scooters, pedestrians, and of course, all the other cars and trucks and busses. Bob is a country truck, with pretty bad manners and an attitude about parking, so that was fun.

A dozen five gallon, two feet tall, black plastic “ceramic” pots full of geraniums and what not, seven smaller clay pots, and three fat feedbags full of flowers we’d dug out of pots too large to relocate later, we were on the way. We thought about all those flowers on the freeway at 70 per and decided to go the back way down 99E.

An unfortunate electric outage, causing chaos at every traffic light, made the the atmosphere in the cab a little testy, but we made it. Here’s a photo of our arrival at the farm.

It was a lot worse than it looks! But at least you can meet Bob, whom you may have forgotten.

So with brute force, a wheelbarrow, not a little profanity, we got the pots resettled and the transplants bedded down along the wall of the garden. Here are some of the newcomers by the front door.

And here are the assorted transplants looking forward to a life spent in actual dirt. Stay tuned.

We planned to spend a few days in a hotel in Half Moon Bay in California, just below San Francisco. A family gathering! Everyone able to come! Larry and I would drive, as is our wont, so began a day early. The signs were definitely there, but we chose to hope for the best. High winds anticipated in northern California. Fire danger extreme.

We had spent the night in Portland, and would begin our trip from there. But it was about right near Corvallis that I realized I’d left my phone in Portland. Damn. Stupid. Could I live a week without my phone? Yeah, well, no. So we have these good friends (you know them, Vik and Gordon) and they could go into our condo and retrieve the phone. We met them at a Starbucks in Wilsonville, picked up the phone, and they headed East for the film festival in Bend, we back on our way south.

We made it to Grants Pass, right at the bottom of Oregon before we heard from Peter that our hotel had no electricity. PG&E had decided to shut off service in areas threatened by fire. Remember last year? A few phone calls and we learned that yes, we had no electricity in the town of HMB, but the hotel was providing flashlights in the bedrooms. Restaurants? Service stations? Well, no, but.

So we bailed. Fortunately all the kids could cancel their flights. The hotel cancelled our reservations. If you have to turn around, Grants Pass is a good place in which to do it, because they have — an In ‘n’ Out Burger there ! ! ! The farthest north that franchise has yet seen fit to expand ! ! !

But our bags were packed, the chicken sitter was in place, what should we do instead? By about Eugene we had realized that we could spend a few days at Black Butte. Yes, we have a chicken sitter, but calm down. That just means she comes by every few days to gather eggs and be sure the water/food situation is okay. Seriously. You people.

Turned right at Eugene and made it to Black Butte by nightfall. This meant we had driven 550 miles in the state of Oregon to arrive 125 miles from home. Nice job, huh?

Larry checked his phone the next morning and was pretty surprised to see a cow wandering in the yard back home on the farm. We have this wild-life camera that so far has caught a few cats, a raccoon, but with this sighting has proved its worth. We do have cows alright, but they are contained in one or another of the pastures, so what the heck? A quick call to Ryan, owner of the cows, and luckily he answered. Was able to turn from his own trip out of town, go herd the herd back behind the fence, close the open gate, and all was well. The garden is mostly put to bed by now, but what about our new plants along the fence? We wouldn’t know until we got home. Most people don’t have these things to worry about as they leave for a vacation, but we do.

A really nice time with Martha and our buddies for a few days and we arrived home. I walked into the kitchen and discovered that we had no water. Oh, man. A little history there, so this was sobering. Nope, cistern full, Larry reported. Valves all turned on in the water purification system in the shed. Okay, see I’m tired, now. And yes, we could get back in the car and head to Portland, but first, we called the pump guy. It’s Monday. It’s a holiday. Of course he doesn’t answer. Larry went out to check one more time and found the one valve he’d overlooked. Oh thank God, we have water!

And yet, it wasn’t hot water. Larry went to the garage to check the GFI for the water heater, and bingo. But don’t celebrate yet. The freezers are on the water heater line and yep. How long had they been without power? Well, the meat seemed hard although the waffles had slumped.

I think it’s about time for another photo. Larry “harvested” these today. The cows had chewed off the tops, but that’s just fine.

I know the photo is sideways, but if you’d be good enough to just tip your head I think you can get the picture. This is what real actual organic home-grown carrots look like. Kind of like people. You know what I mean, right?

Whoa, bed time here. But it’s been nice visiting with you. See you again real soon now!

BACKYARD CHICKENS, not for amateurs

Henrietta, always our over-achiever, head chicken, mean girl, had been looking unwell for a day or so, back feathers dirty and matted, so we consulted our Backyard Chicken books, and determined that we should isolate her to see if the condition improved. Larry got to work and installed some of the fence sections we’d stored against next spring’s project and created a separate inclosure for our sick chicken. Made a little nest, moved one of the watering systems in — looked pretty cosy.

But Henrietta wasn’t having it, thank you. Chickens can fly, of course, and some new fence wasn’t going to keep this girl away from her posse. Okay, then. We closed the other birds into their run/coop and gave Henrietta the run of the orchard. Thought she’d move in to her new digs as the sun went down.

But as it became dark and the other chickens retired for the evening, Henrietta paced the length of the run, tying to join them. So I couldn’t stand it and let her return to the flock for the evening.

Next morning, though, her wound, or whatever was worse. She was apparently, inescapably, egg-bound. Use your imagination. At least, the problem is not contagious, and I returned to my books. Whew. The suggestions there were, well, think about it. A warm epsom-salts bath for 30 minutes? What, how am I going to keep a chicken sitting in warm water for half an hour? I won’t describe the other remedies, one of which was to contact your local vet. Bingo.

Please try to picture the look on the faces of the young women behind the counter of the vet emergency care facility (the only establishment which treats avian patients, i.e. chickens) as this cute little old couple comes in bearing their pet chicken in a cardboard box. Unalloyed delight, was what it was. Barely contained.

For that matter, imagine how well Larry loved this whole affair. But we were shown to a room. Henrietta was quiet, there in her box, and we were amazed at how well the — let’s see — intern? was able to handle her. Even weigh her. Four pounds, fourteen ounces, for the record. It was a busy morning at the vet’s and an hour later it was our turn. Larry had left for lattes when the doctor entered. Didn’t take long. She’d need a scan, X-rays, antibiotics, possible surgery — STOP! No, despite the expectations of the staff who imagined this was our little pet darling, I’m sorry. Would she recover without intervention? No. And no, thank you, we didn’t want the ashes for a little burial ceremony.

So, she is at peace, we presume. Without pain. And we are again short a chicken. Yes, it is sad. I don’t know how the other chickens will fare without their boss-lady.

We determined to pick blackberries late in the afternoon. We’d collected half a bucket when the worst scenario unfolded. Larry dropped the bucket and the berries nestled, taunting us, in the tangled, evil, spiny, vines at our feet. Damn! Okay, start over. We were both bleeding from multiple sites on hands and arms when we finally gave up with half the second bucket full. The vines are at least twenty feet high, and the thought of one of us falling into the briar patch was sobering, to say the least.

But we could hear the thump of the drum as the OSU band warmed up for the evening football game. The late afternoon sun painted everything golden, and I thought there is no where else on earth I’d rather be.

Now, Saturday morning, as I type, I admire my purple hands and blackened nails. To make blackberry jam, it’s necessary to cook down the berries, then suspend them in a cotton towel and squeeze the juice into a bowl. I’ll have to wash a lot of dishes before my fingernails look presentable again. To be honest, I don’t much care.

Tomorrow is Larry’s birthday. We’re going to Eugene to secure hotel reservations for Amy’s graduation next June, then on to the White-Davis Manzanita cabin for the remainder of the Labor Day weekend.

No photos this time: will do better going forward!

WITCHIN’

We’ll start today with some statistics: One adult Black Angus female will drink 2 gallons per hundred pounds of weight per day. Double that amount if lactating.

One well producing 5 gallons per minute will require 8 hours of pumping to provide daily water to 30 lactating cows. We have such a well, those cows, plus 30 some calves and two adult bulls. See where I’m going with this?

Right. We came up dry last Thursday and began to go into panic mode. I began to go there; Larry, of course, was pragmatic. The well would recover. Life would go on.

But in the morning, when the well had not recovered, we put in the call to Ryan. Cows are gonna get thirsty, (and you should hear those cows when they’re unhappy.) Ryan, as always, was on it. The solar pump idea wasn’t working, but he has two tanker trucks and the equipment necessary to get water to his animals. We were now able to turn off the water to the tanks fed by our exhausted well. Here’s what the new system looks like:

You will notice that there are no cows availing themselves of this new water. That’s because they like the old tanks, the ones with the friendly goldfish. It’s where they like to take their afternoon naps. Fortunately, however, the well had resumed pumping to our cistern, and we could again look forward to normal amenities, like showers and the dishwasher.

We’ll get back to this. But in the meantime, we had been noticing a strange circle of vibrant green grass near the orchard. We’d remembered the spring that was discovered at the construction of the fence, and wondered if it was responsible for the lush growth. Did this suggest that there may be an aquifer below which we could tap into for the water we’re missing?

A neighbor, who happens to be an engineer, scoffed at this idea. “You have a leak in your sprinkler system.” End of story. But he was kind enough to give Larry a piece of copper wiring, which could be stripped and made into water-witching rods.

This was fun. You bend the wires into an angle and hold them ahead as you walk, and see what happens. For Larry, nothing. But for me, damned if they didn’t want to cross. It was strange to feel the pull as one rod wanted to cross the other. The wind? Maybe, but the wind didn’t make them cross for Larry. Pretty clear I’m a witch! But were they pointing to a spring or an aquifer?

The neighbors wanted to try their hands at witching, and neither could produce the magic. But nothing would shake Ted’s conviction that a leak was causing the green patch. And to prove it, he, a talented post-hole digger (we all have our gifts) would dig a hole into the area with, as it turned out, a tool Larry had somehow inherited from my dad.

Tried to insert a photo here without success. Sorry, Ted. He is indeed talented at digging holes, and the hole he dug soon filled with water. But from the leak or my spring? Timed passed. We called Jake, our pump guy, who came over on Saturday afternoon to install a switch which would turn off the water to the affected area. Sure enough, the water in the Ted-dug hole dissipated, so yep, a leak, not a spring. But I still maintain that there is a spring, my witching proves it. I went back to my blog in 2015 to find the entry proving its existence and found the reference. Ha.

Larry and I spent the morning today working on the fence destroyed by the downed tree. Missing Peter and Andrew here.

Not easy, requiring tools not in the Viehl tool chest (and no, I’m not speaking metaphorically here), so we adjourned the effort and simply loaded the truck with downed branches, destined for the next fire. The cows, meanwhile, were having a loud, demanding conversation. There was no longer any water in the tanks they prefer, and they were outraged. Finally, following some herd instinct, they began to flow, a black river, down the hill to the next pasture.

When they had all made their way to the correct (according to us) pasture, we were able to shut the system of gates that would lock them out of their favorite lounging site. And this in turn, allows me access to a magnificent stand of blackberries, ripening in the August sun. Feeling a little too pleased with ourselves, we relented and opened the faucet for the one tank within their reach, so that they may continue to enjoy what water our well, may provide.

And, by the way, the chickens are fine. Thanks for asking. See you next time!

SUMMERTIME

Back home from the 2019 edition of Camp Estrogen, held this year at Julie’s Black Butte digs, okay, I’m tired. Six women, five of whom no longer contain any of the eponymous estrogen (one who says they’ll have to pry her precious pills from her fists when she goes to her eternal rest) havin’ fun away from real life for a couple of days.

Among other adventures, we had lunch at Rain Shadow Organic Farms, and when asked if we might buy some eggs, were told that chickens don’t lay at this time of year. It seems, the nice lady told us, that they sense the oncoming cold weather of fall, and egg production stops. Very interesting. No one told my chickens, who continue to lay apace. Maybe this is a regional pattern. We were, after all, across the mountains where it does, indeed, get cold in winter.

Interesting note: Corvallis is a word derived from Latin, meaning Heart of the Valley. Somehow this knowledge improves my appreciation of our town’s name.

Let’s take a break for a couple of photos, artistically arranged:

Larry’s garden has run amuck! So now what? Note, by the way, the basket of farm-fresh eggs. Ha! This is what happens when you run off with your girlfriends, and I’ve been chopping and blanching and freezing for days. In fact, we find that we have to buy an additional freezer for the garage to house the bounty.

I’m not sure how to winter over the delicatas, and the huge cucumbers lurking behind the eggs have taken their place in the great wheel of compost, but the broccoli, zucchini, and cauliflower have been tucked into freezer containers to await, well, something. I’ll figure it out.

And I came back to notice that our herd of cows/calves has expanded. Five white baby calves, very cute, and what seemed to be lots more mommas. Seems Ryan felt the grass of the three pastures where they’ve been hanging out was rich enough to support more animals. About 24 more. Bringing us up to 50 or so. They’re such fun to watch, but what about our water? Remember? Our wells run dry sometimes? We’ve turned off the sprinklers to our lawn and it’s getting appropriately “golden” (it’s a look), but we would like to guarantee our household supply.

So Ryan says that his guy will talk to Green Belt Landtrust about a solar powered system they use to pull water from Muddy Creek. We farmers are allowed to sip from the creek for ag purposes, and if true, could fill a couple of tanks down in the riparian area. I tend to freak about the water situation, so hope that this system can be put in place before we have to call the tanker as per 2 years ago. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tomorrow I’m going to U-pick blueberries with neighbor Terri, departing at 8 in the morning. At least they’re easy to freeze! So, got my tin bucket, my jeans and boots and yeah, it sure feels like summer.

JULY 2019

This is my second attempt at a photo essay by First Grandkid Andrew. The first disappeared into the ether and I have one word for anyone planning to write a blog using Word Press. Don’t.

But, here’s a photo of Andrew, which is not, of course, part of his photo essay:

He came to the farm to work, and here he is hard at it:

He’s shoveling dirt into the old feed trough, which we thought to utilize as a planter. It’s right by the old well, so water is available, and wouldn’t filbert (aka hazelnut) trees be a fun idea?

I changed my mind. It’s too damn hard to manipulate this f-ing app, if that’s what Word Press is, and if there’s an opportunity to post another photo, I’ll give it a shot later when I’ve composed myself.

Last post found us sending David and Caroline off to parts unknown, which materialized as Vancouver BC, where they spent a few weeks before heading back to Hawaii. Right now I believe they’re in England somewhere, but communication is sketchy with these two. If and when they actually move, I’m sure they’ll let us know.

After their visit, Jenny and her family came to the farm for a couple of days. Somehow I didn’t take any photos, which I regret, but at least that means I don’t have to commit a half hour and my usual sweet temperament to post them. I’ll just say it was great fun to see them, to catch up on Alli’s life in Colorado, and at Seattle Prep where Will is a Junior-to-be. Jenny and Tom have purchased a “fixer-upper” and have launched the project with a search for an architect who will understand that a dollar means a dollar. Good luck with that, but miracles do happen.

Peter and Andrew arrived next, to help with the latest downed oak, some tractor work on the above mentioned feed trough, and whatever else occurred to the aged p’s.

Speaking of miracles! I refer to the fact that this photo arrived right-side up and in the right place. Pushing my luck, I try again:

I am so on a roll! Peter at the controls of the trusty John Deere — but as happened in the past, the tractor sprang a hydraulic leak and this particular job came to an ignominious halt. The tractor got hauled away as Larry, who is usually sure he can fix whatever (see next topic) wisely deferred to the local John Deere folk.

Mom and Peter here. Love the cowboy hat!

Peter and Andrew drove off on the 4th — yes, they drive from Altadena — and we sat on the porch enjoying the rare, consecutive visits from our kids. In our rocking chairs. But farm life waits not her tired caretakers. The watering tanks were up to their tricks.

The construction error that cost the life of the calf had been remedied, but the float valve in the operative one declined to shut off the water supply, and, on going to check, we discovered a flood. This, of course, can drain the well, and though we can get along while the well recovers, the cows can’t.

Call Ryan, (cow guy) I say, with an edge of hysteria.

“I can fix it,” says Larry.

Oh God. Yes, he probably can fix a stupid float valve, but . . .

“Look, it’s simple. You just have to . . .”

A day goes by. The fix endures, until it doesn’t Another flood. This is not, dear readers, Larry’s fault. It finally required a real true plumber and a whole new system.

But in working with the tank, we’d seen a scummy slimy forest of algae in the tank. Goldfish to the rescue:

Ten “feeders” who bring the number of our personal livestock to thirteen. So far as we can tell, they’re doing a very good job. Don’t know how they feel about cows sucking up their water, but we can hope that they will thrive.

We made a dash to Black Butte to make up the beds for the Hawley family who will be staying there for a week, starting the 16th. As their time corresponds exactly with Camp Estrogen, and as Camp E will be held at the Ball family home there, it will be fun to finally get a chance to meet Jutka and the kids.

On Monday, we were lucky to be on the southbound trail of Ellen Banks and her new beau, George. Ellen is technically our grand-niece-in-law, but she has always been one of our grandkids in our hearts. She lives and works in New York where she met her lovely Scottish boyfriend. They’re driving down the coast to Pasadena, then back to New York. Yes, driving to New York. Kids!

Back now at the farm, alone again, we’re enjoying a spell of rain-ish weather. Actually welcome, as we have time to figure out how we’ll be watering the new plants down at the gate. Plants heretofore watered by the old fashioned bucket and pail system. Can you buy a two-hundred foot hose? I’ll let you know.

LOSS

Okay, I gave up and finally updated my Word Press, managers of my blog site, and everything looks different. Will I be able to load photos? Lets check:

So far so good. Only took me a trip upstairs to find my old computer on which I found navigation instructions. I have no idea how the formatting on this new system will look when published. It’s a journey we’re on together.

Anyway, I took this photo this morning to illustrate the large bat-wing mower, powered by Fish and Wildlife, which is taking down the ocean of grasses and wild flowers earlier planted by same. The wild flowers did grow, but were quickly overshot by the Astoria bent grass, a troublesome invasive. They will spray with something called Springer, to which the flowers are supposed immune, in the hope to give the flowers competitive edge next year. We’ll see.

But the title of this piece is loss. Let’s start with David and Caroline, who arrived Monday evening, we being the first stop on their epic road trip to, well, that’s a good question. They hadn’t yet decided on Monday evening. But by Tuesday evening, when Larry and I had begun our watering system for the gate plantings (it’s Hot here, like high 90’s.) D and C walked down the road for an evening stroll and discovered that one of the calves had been stuck behind the barbed wire enclosing one of the streams. This would account for the loud, relentless moo-ing we’d been hearing all afternoon.

Larry and David undertook to crawl under/through the fence to, um, what? lift the calf out? Which probably weighs 200# by now, but, something had to be done. The land inside the stream fencing is rough, weedy, and, in my opinion, too dangerous for a couple of oldish tenderfoots to attempt. Didn’t listen, and, amazingly, the threat they represented to the poor lad caused him to scramble through the barbed wire, to no apparent ill effect. Momma came running, and we supposed the drama to be over.

But there are 16 calves, and we could only account for 15. Where was the last one?

Later that night, well after dark, the distraught moo-ing continued. A neighbor texted to say that she’d tried to get across the fence (a really really bad idea — not only barbed wire but electric — to comfort the cow (how do you even try to comfort a cow?) Bless her heart. This was enough to persuade Larry that we had to call Ryan, the cow’s owner.

He said there was nothing to be done until morning when he’d come over and try to find the missing baby. The moo-ing went on all night.

The baby was found the next morning. His head had somehow been caught in the watering tank. He didn’t drown, but suffocated. Ryan sent someone over to collect the body, and to amend the tank housing. He was philosophical, says loss accompanies the business, that the calf had not suffered, but died within seconds, that nothing could have been done to prevent his death. The cows were moved to a different pasture.

The neighbors have not been so sanguine. The tanks (four of them) were designed and build by an engineer from NRCS as part of the stream-protection grant. Something must be done. This seems such a human impulse. We will inform the agency of the problem. Meanwhile, the mourning continued through the days and nights, hard to hear. I saw Caroline walk down the road and try to extend human comfort to the mother, who stood alone in the corner of the field nearest to the tank. I do not know if her sentiment was received.

But. David and Caroline! What an amazing couple. Caroline believes that Hawaii is responsible for her cancer, or at least partly culpable, and so she doesn’t live there. Of course, that is where her home is, at least so long as David’s job is in Hawaii. So she travels. Apparently they have gamed the credit card points system to a degree that approaches genius. David keeps the home and the cats, and seems perfectly content with their arrangement.

They eat according to a plan that is narrow to disappearing. Caroline records every bite onto a digital site, and her will power can move the mountains, drain the oceans. She wavers not. And listen to this. Her entire wardrobe travels with her. Everything she owns. In two suitcases. Normal suitcases, not trunks. She is cheerful, mindful, entertaining. She laughs, she rescues each tiny insect and removes it outside. She believes in the transcendent. David adores her.

Now they’re on their way, perhaps to Canada, perhaps to Montana. We may or may not be advised. God speed. And our life sinks back into the comfort of habit. We have a real dinner, which includes, you won’t be surprised to hear, sausage. As we speak, Larry is outside talking to the crew we’ve engaged as a test to care for our lawn. The lawn looks beautiful. It has taken two men three hours to accomplish what Larry manages in an hour and a half. I’m not paying them for three hours work every week! Larry says. There goes my idea that he might relax and enjoy a game of golf every now and then.

The installation of sky lights in the attic/snug/whatever room goes on in fits. The actual installation is now complete, but the wiring of overhead can- lights may be undertaken next Wednesday. The wall-boarding? We seem to be a project that is slipped into interstices of the contractor’s real jobs.

Now it’s time to post this and see what travels across the ether. Sorry there weren’t more photos! Maybe next time?

Last Friday we flew to LA…
“Wait. You FLEW to LA? I thought you hated to fly.”
“She does,” Larry said. “Last fall when we drove down here she said that was it. From here on in we’d fly when we came. But I guarantee next time we’ll be driving again.”
I know, but the flight was so turbulent, plus, there was no water in the galleries for coffee of tea. No water? They even fly a plane with no water? Used the restroom and there was a hand pencilled sign telling us not to use the sink. But what about . . .? Oh, never mind.

The graduation was impressive, the 150th graduating class of Loyola, oldest school in Southern California. Charlie conducted the choir Friday night for baccalaureate, and it was exciting to see him in his element. On Saturday morning the 300 boys marched in, heard speeches, and were proclaimed commenced. There were 6 or 7 special awards announced, and Charlie received that of the student who most exemplified the values of St. Ignatius and a Jesuit education. Nice! Do they know he isn’t a Catholic, we whispered. I wanted to post a photo of him in the middle of his proud family, but my computer pitched a fit at the idea, swallowed all that I had written, sulked, and wouldn’t wake up until this morning.

The party Saturday night was vintage Allison, who knows how to throw an amazing shindig (though she wouldn’t use that word.) We got to meet Charlie’s friends, chat with the other grandparents, friends we’d met over the years. Good food, and the wine flowed. On Sunday we went to All Saints to see Charlie’s last performance in the church choir. It’s an uber-liberal church, welcoming all, wherever they may be on their journey’s of faith, except Republicans. Or so Peter tells us.

Another plane ride (sigh, heavy turbulence) and we’re back at the farm, picking up the threads of farm life. It’s been an unruly week, of which my computer misbehavior was but a piece. Tyrone, our builder, arrived yesterday morning to begin installing the skylight windows in the room above the garage. We needed to pick up some propane, and go to Harbor Freight in Albany to acquire a set of ramps. Truck batteries, both of them, were dead. Okay, on to Plan B. We’d go the the garden shop to pick up some plants, etc., using the SUV, of course. On our return we found a note from Tyrone. A family medical problem had to be addressed, he hoped we’d understand, would try to get back to us next Monday.

Next day, Triple A came to start the truck, and while that was going on, I decided to walk down to the river, and passed by a pastoral scene:

IMG_1806

Back at the barn, Larry told me that he’d tried to water the new plants by the gate and found that the well was dry. WTF? It’s been raining for a month. How could we run out of water? This is serious! But apparently the automatic watering system for the lawn had been far too comprehensive, and maybe the well would replenish, given an hour or so? In any case, the truck was running, so we could head for Albany and pick up the ramps. Which you might think are some exotic spring vegetable, but to clarify:

IMG_1808

Fingers crossed, we turned on the faucet from the “dry” well, and found the missing water. Whew. I don’t have a photo of the watering procedure, but here it is: We fill a barrel on the back of the ATV with water and drive to the gate. I climb up and hoist a bucket-full of water out of the barrel and hand it to Larry, who pours the water onto the plants. While I can climb up onto the bed of the ATV with the best of us, getting me down is something else. I will leave that to your imagination. You’re welcome.

Changing the subject, we now have our bull in the pasture with the cows and calves. Sort of completes the picture. He is massive, but seems to be perfectly gentle, composed, like Ferdinand. Which we will call him, whatever his name may be. Actually he probably doesn’t have a name. He is just 38, according to the tattoo on his shoulder. So far, no cow sex to be seen, which is fine. One doesn’t really want to watch.

Larry went out to spray the weeds in the yard and under the fruit trees. Just came in. It’s pouring! This was not forecast by the weather people who live in his phone, so he is not happy. We’re going through a patch, I tell him. He isn’t consoled, but has come in and is eating lunch, so life goes on.

SPRING TIME

Spring must be a busy time for you farmer folk. What do you do all day, for example? Milk the cows? Plant the potatoes?

Hahaha.

So today, May 22: We walk down the path to check for wild flowers, and find:

IMG_1781

Columbine, just a few. On down to the wetland:

IMG_1780

The clouds burn off, but we’re too late to see the wash of camas that our friend Terri described from her trip down here last weekend. (Don’t ask. Kind of a sore subject.)

Nothing for it but to pull on our overalls and clean the shed:

IMG_1787

The shed has become the junk drawer of farmer stuff, starting with the ATV, push mower, rototiller, edger, weed whacker, and assorted rakes, shovels, barrels, chicken feed, nesting material, well, you get the idea. Friend Tommy has told Larry he’ll want to build a barn up by the house one day soon, for the now obvious reason. As it is, stuff we need has a way of forever being in the wrong, inaccessible, place. I don’t see this happening, honestly, though? Hmm. A new, real barn-like barn could be cute, don’t you think?

A couple of hours later:

IMG_1788

We put all that stuff back, determined to install hangers for the rakes and shovels. For now, they resume leaning against the wall. I have washed the dirt off the tools, but I know Larry will not make a habit of cleaning them as he uses them, so promise myself that I’ll take care of them in the great fall cleanup. Months from now. Because now it’s time for lunch at Block 15 down the road:

IMG_1793

Larry will leave this afternoon to drive to Black Butte, in order to go fishin’ Thursday with friend Robb on the Deschutes. He has, however, sustained a mysterious injury to his leg, apparently from an errant golf swing. A trip to the Good Sam Walk-in clinic, to a referred PT, a program for exercising the muscle/tendon/whatever, some Alleve, and he’s been able to get this rudimentary farm work done, but how will it be fishing?

Don’t worry, he says, all he has to do is climb in and out of the guide’s boat. Tell me not to worry? Okay. But how about golf next week at the glorious BBI golf tournament? The 40th anniversary BBI? I don’t worry, exactly, but I think he won’t be happy. Will try to golf anyway. It will hurt. Hey, farmers can’t be engaging in activities that are so dangerous, like golf, right?

I haven’t shown you Larry’s 2019 garden. Have a look:

IMG_1795 3 4

I’m writing this on my new “downstairs” computer. In anticipation of wanting a computer up with my banjos, in the to-be-named space formerly known as the “snug”, the “attic”, the Chick Room, (I was never on board for that one, that was the Parker Furniture appellation). Yes, you know how this has gone. I first engaged Simply Mac in Corvallis to move the info from the old machine to the new (okay, I did try it myself first. Again, hahaha.) But Mac could only go so far. Count the hours on the phone to Comcast, pleading with them to remove the “sign-in failed” message blocking the arrival of email to my new machine. But yesterday, a return trip to Simply Mac and somehow, the evil Comcast has been vanquished. However, thru the miracle of this time we live in, the blog has moved over, settled in, and with a few hiccups, here we are.

Last post, I was on about how the first vision had been completed with the addition of a crab apple tree. Well, not quite. Of course we knew that it would be more difficult to enjoy the easy friendships with our long-time beloved “people.” Vik and Gordon, Julie and Robb, Sally and Bob, Soupie, Dinah, Diane and Dick, Nancy and Mal, Larry’s Columbia buddies, BBI guys, my band guys, just, you know. Our lives. Nothing can replace the warmth of these constant friends.

So we traded. We won and lost. I don’t say we’ve lost our friends, as we depend on them and love them as before. I just can’t call Vik and see if she has any extra pickles. They can’t call us and say everyone’s meeting for dinner, come on over. But something nice has happened. We’ve met some shiny new friends, who are making our farm life much richer. First, Terri, who has been good to me, and now, Marjorie and Ted. Both Larry and I like and enjoy both of these two. They’ve taken us on nearby hikes, introduced their family, consulted on important chicken establishment issues. They like to laugh, have interesting back stories, and we are lucky to count them, now, as friends. Marjorie and I went to lunch yesterday, and she, now acquainted with my blog habit, said she hoped she wouldn’t find herself in my writing. Sorry, Marjorie, here you are.

Just checked in with Larry, who’s on his way home. Caught the first fish! Perfect. Someday I may understand the magic of this activity, but for now? So long as I don’t have to join him, who cares? Have fun! Come home safe and dry! The end.

CATTLE DRIVE

Just looked it up. Average weight of a full-grown Angus female cow: 1250 pounds. Times 15 = 18,750. That’s a lot of momma cow coming at you up the road, when you want them to turn into the opening in the fence and on to the new pasture.

IMG_0384

But don’t worry, Tyler tells me. My dad is really smart. Here’s Ryan, Cow Guy, Ryan’s dad, pointing the way to the last calf at the end of another successful drive:

IMG_0385

We knew that Ryan planned to move the herd sometime, so when we heard the commotion last evening we managed to get down the driveway to watch the process. Little-known bit of cattle driving wisdom: you have the best luck moving them early in the morning or evening, because they’re somewhat together instead of spread out grazing. Makes sense.

Tyler, his little brother Logan, and mom Stacey had come along this evening for the fun of it. Tyler is 7, Logan, 4, and bouncy as you can imagine, what with it being a school night. They have found one glorious rock apiece, each of which look like a boat, and ask if they may keep them. Tyler has a blue sack into which I supposed he’d put the treasure but no, he says, he has put his rock into the truck to keep it safe.

What’s in your sack? I ask

“It’s a secret.”

Okay.

“No, it’s a surprise, so I can’t tell you.”

Okay.

“See, look. I made this.” He pulls out a card-shaped bit of cardboard with paper pasted to each side. “It’s a remote control for my brain.”

There’s writing on the card. What does this say, I ask.

“Well, it’s a control button. This one says Do Your Work.”

Oh my God, I love little boys!

Ryan asked if we’d noticed that one of the cows has twins. Number 83. You seen them? So there’s 16 calves, 15 mothers.

Well, no, one little calf looks pretty much like another, and if I were willing go walk among them, looking at ear tags, I might identify Number 83. This is not likely to happen, but now, this evening, we’re enjoying the view of the animals in a pasture closer to the house. Maybe I’ll notice a mom nursing two babies?

Anyway, it’s been awhile since we visited. A month, in fact. So. It rained a lot, flooded, actually down here in Corvallis. The riparian area of the farm flooded, which was pretty picturesque, another tree fell across the lower fence. The golf course flooded and the OSU crew practiced on the fairways.

The fact of the rain kept the landscapers away from some of their projects and they were diverted to building the stone planter for the little crab apple tree. Which tree, having finally bloomed, I am happy to say, has white blossoms.

Then the sun returned, and with it, the opportunity for Larry to fix a 6-foot round of chicken wire onto the ground around each orchard tree. This allows the chickens to be free-range again, as their run, while better than the coop alone, is pretty confining. For 3 birds who refuse to get along and behave as a flock. The poor Toastie needs space to get away from evil Henrietta. I know, they’re just being chickens, pecking order and all that, but Miss Henrietta needs her feathers clipped. Without the chicken wire, the birds dig away and expose the roots of the fruit trees in their search for worms and so on.

That was only part of the problem, however. The raised beds that Peter and Larry had built two years ago became the favorite new dirt pile for the birds, and they flung the soil about with abandon. And the rhubarb! They loved to harass the rhubarb. Luckily we’d purchased some 3-foot metal, somewhat decorative, fencing components in an earlier attempt at an earlier version of chickens’ run. Why not put them up around the planters and the rhubarb?

IMG_1771

A little bit fancy, but now the new lettuce and old rhubarb are safe. Job done.

Suddenly everything is green and lush. We went for a walk this morning with new friends across the way, up the hills and into the forest. Wild iris in bloom, ticks. Oh, wait, ticks? We don’t have ticks in Oregon, do we? Yes, seems we do. Well, just don’t walk in the tall grass, and check when you get home. Takes some of the edge off, but the views were worth it.

Sunday is our anniversary! Still together, feeling very lucky, feeling like home.