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:

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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:

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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:

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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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?

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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.

“Heavy rain this morning” says our ap for weather here at the farm. For sure! But we are off to the Benton County Poultry Swap, so pull on our boot, raincoats, warm some leftover coffee and head for the fairgrounds. Starts at 8:00, said the reader board yesterday, but the reader board forgot to mention that the start time for customers would be 10:00. No wonder we got such a good parking spot. We sigh. We are here to buy another chicken for our “flock” (of 2). But apparently we are to have breakfast first. Fine.

Let’s stop at Wilco, we say, to get some pine shavings for the coop, get a bite at the nearby Applebees. Strike two, the restaurant is having a fund raiser, managed by a lot of young women in blue shirts, and we can have breakfast there for a donation of $11 to the blue-shirt organization. Breakfast will be pancakes. We decide to go, instead, to the Broken Yolk in downtown Corvallis. It’s still raining.

We go, and manage a very nice breakfast. We look over the list of chicken breeds we’d picked up from Wilco, and decide that we’d like a black chicken which is friendly and a good layer. On the way back to the fairgrounds we run afoul of the bike event in Corvallis this morning. We cannot get there from here, so endure a 10 mile detour and find the parking lot full of people carrying totes, cardboard boxes, pushing strollers, all holding umbrellas, of course.

You have probably never been to a poultry swap, and may be surprised to learn, as I was, that “poultry” is meant to indicate chickens, rabbits, pigs, ducks, kettle corn, balloons, clothing, toys, and I-don’t-know-whatall:

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What they mean by “swap” I can’t say. We did not notice people trading a piglet, say, for a t-shirt. But we finally came to a cage holding Golden Laced Wyandottes. Only one left still for sale. Here she is:

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Her name is Burnt Toast. The introduction to Rhodie and Henrietta did not go smoothly. Henrietta turns out to be a mean girl, bullying, threatening, flapping, but we understand that this hen-pecking is normal chicken behavior. We hope Toastie will survive. We leave for Portland this afternoon and they will have to adjust as best they can.

Which is not so bad as it sounds, as the new outdoor run has been completed. I’d show you a photo, but it’s not all that interesting. Allen and Vaughn from Peterson Landscaping spent a couple of days sinking the poles, stretching the chicken wire and building a person door to the enclosure. A length of mesh under each foundation pole insures that no weasel or stoat or mink or fox can get into the hen house. The wire roof does the same from airborne predators. It’s not exactly chicken paradise, but they are still, technically, free-range birds.

Now with all this news about chickens, I haven’t told you that the cows are back. On Tuesday, the herd slipped in without our notice, and we were quite surprised to see 15 mamma and 15 babies grazing the west pasture. Two of the mother cows are brown, but all babies are black. It’s fun to see the little ones frolicking and gamboling about (I’m not too sure of the exact meaning of gamboling — excuse me while I look it up). Gamboling appears to mean “frolicking,” so my usage is, I guess, redundant. It is most often an activity associated with lambs, no mention of calves gamboling.

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They have not ventured close enough to the fence for a close-up, and I’m not motivated to climb in the pasture after a good photo shoot. Besides, in a email conversation with Charlie Hawley, he mentioned that cows are known to be carnivorous. Of course, no one takes Charlie Hawley seriously, but one can’t be too careful.

We’ve been at work on the garden — digging up and replanting the catmint and salvia which were way over-represented in the foundation planting. We put the boring stuff down with the dogwood, leaving holes to be filled so soon as the nurseries bring in the plants we’ve identified to provide a little color and snap. And maybe you’ll remember that the whole farm project was about “a little house with an apple tree?” We do have several apple trees in the orchard, but that isn’t what I had meant. The apple tree was supposed to be “with” the house, not down the way, and has been missing until earlier this week when I fell in love with a crab apple tree. (My sisters may remember our homestead with its crab apple tree in the front yard?) Here we are:

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It’s about leaf out, but will await planting until Allen and Co. can find a temporary pot large enough to serve over the summer. It will be installed in a stone container next fall, if all goes to plan.

Now, this Saturday afternoon, the sun has come out, and it’s time to pack up for Portland. The condo has been turned over to a realtor for a pocket listing, and every trip there is a sharp reminder of all we have to do. I don’t even want to talk about it. See you next time!

MARCH 20

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This is Andrew, First Grandkid. From the bemused look on his face, you will intuit that a chain saw does not define him. If he were to lean his elbow on a Koenigsegg, for example, his smile would be different.

Yeah, I’d never heard of a Koenigsegg either, but it is a hypermegacar, (which means the thing goes really, really fast) one of which is currently on sale on line for $3,000,000.00.

Andrew and his dad, Peter, had come to the farm for a couple of days, bringing some SoCal muscle to the project of clearing the fence lately smashed by a falling oak tree. They put in a good two-days work, not only on the fence, but the trees stacked on the ground from the earlier copse-clearing as well. Hooray! More firewood!

I do not suppose that a hypermegacar is in Andrew’s near future, but he has a passion for autos of this class, even having recently spent hard-earned money for one time around a track — with a pro driver, of course — at some fund-raising affair. He shared a movie-length video of various aspects of these things, the sound track of which can be imagined. It’s not a passion that easily translates into realization, but, who knows? I suspect there is much more to Andrew behind his easy smiles than has yet been revealed.

I came into the kitchen on Friday morning to find him sleeping on the sofa. He’s a long drink of water, maybe 6’2, but apparently he couldn’t sleep in the provided bed. Hey, Andrew, if you see this, I spent Sunday night on that bed. Yikes! Like sleeping on a slab of concrete. Okay, I didn’t spend the whole night, fortunately having my own bed to which to retire. Grandpa and I hauled a 2-inch foam pad down here from Portland, and next time, you should be able to sleep comfortably in the thus-augmented guest bed.

Changing the subject, obviously, here we have a photo of the Samoan piano movers shoving my piano up the stairs at the farm. This is part of a project to reconfigure the Chickroom/Snug/Attic as an adult retreat, complete with sofa and TV. Against the day when we sell the condo, I thought to move the piano so that I can enjoy it now. I mostly use it to work out chords on my banjo, but I do like to play it and suppose that when my banjo picking’ days are behind me I will still have a way to make music.

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Who but the former front line of the Beaver football squad could get the 800 pound gorilla up the stairs and around the corner, with smiles on their beautiful faces . . . Love these guys!

New boy toy to report:

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Not as easy as it looks, says Larry. Hmm. Does it look easy to you? Didn’t think so. But he has now the means to begin work on the 2019 Vision Garden. Onion sets have already arrived in the mailbox. We may hope that the green beans will germinate, the tomatoes prosper, and most particularly, that the zucchini will be sweet.

With two days of sunshine, we hauled chairs out of the garage and stretched out in the newly warm air. This move unfortunately revealed dead flies, rocks from the driveway, dirt, odd lumps, one of which turned out to be a deceased frog, in the space formerly occupied by the chairs. It was a little frog, but still. Ah, spring.

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SNOW

When you’re a kid growing up in the soggy Willamette Valley and it snows, you’re just happy. When it snows for a week, it’s a miracle. What about when you’re a grown-up living in Corvallis? Yep. Miracle.

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This is the sign Jenny gave Larry for Christmas, all dressed up:

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Okay, backing up here. When last seen, the chickens were huddled in the coop, reluctant to go outside even when tempted with treats. No surprise, when I discovered this guy, lying athwart the coop wall:

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It’s a Kestrel, a small hawk. Look at his beautiful, intricate markings. Mysterious Mom Nature at work:

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But he’s too small to hunt a chicken, isn’t he? Well, no, according to the man at Shonnards, who is our source of most farm-related info. Chickens, he tells us, are at the bottom of the food chain, with no defensive mechanisms, thanks to years of domestication and selective breeding. Even a Kestrel can take one if he’s lucky. Which apparently ours wasn’t, who died trying. Or so it appears.

However, Shonnards tells us, that wasn’t a hawk that killed your birds anyway. No hawk will go inside a coop, nor would he leave the dead bodies tucked in, as ours were. Nope. Got yourselves a rat, he says first. But upon receiving more information, changes his diagnosis. Yeah, no, that wasn’t a rat. A weasel, or mink. Maybe a raccoon, but the m.o. clearly points to a weasel. Hmm. I didn’t like the idea of a rat, but a weasel takes our chickens? No romance, no Mom Nature sacrificing one bird for another. What do we know about weasels, other than their very bad reputation? Excuse me while I turn to Google. (Went to Mental Floss, in case you want to see photos.) They’re cute, vicious, bloodthirsty killers, provisioned with a skunk-like stink gland. Well, no wonder Rhodie has been paralyzed since the attack. So how do we protect our birds, going forward? Grant, Fence-Guy is coming over on Sunday to assess the possibilities for an outdoor run inside the orchard for the chickens. To protect from hawks and owls, we supposed. Free range, yet alive, chickens? How far do we go?

Changing the subject to the Department of Having Fun: We took a long weekend to go to Astoria with our buddies Vik and Gordon for the Fisher Poet Festival. This is a long-standing celebration (21 years) of a community of which we knew about exactly nothing. Fisher folk comprise lobstermen from Maine, salmon, haddock, crab, and halibut fishers from Alaska, a brotherhood which includes a serious component of women. Wasn’t so much “poetry” as stories, a window on a seductive, dangerous, compelling way to make a lot of money (or not) in a short span of time.

On Monday, while Larry is in Portland having breakfast with his work-friends from back in the day, going to the dentist, to the symphony, I remain snow-bound on the farm, unable to travel to the city for my own dentist appointment. Oh darn. I receive an invitation from neighbors to come over for a bowl of soup, then, when it gets dark, out to the hill in back for some night-time sledding. With two artificial knees, some activities are pretty challenging. Like getting into or out of a bathtub, for example. What about flopping down onto a sled? Yeah, not so easy. So I took just one run, for my pride, and called it perfect. Side bar: when we first met these neighbors, Larry enjoyed regaling them with our life history, complete, incessantly, with dates. They could do the math, and while I’m not so bloody eager for everyone to know just how old we are, he revels in it. Apparently. Result, these neighbors treat us gently, as one might, treat old people. Sigh.

Now we turn to the dark side of this snow. On Tuesday of this week, Larry and I took a walk around the western/southern perimeter of the property. And found this:

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Larry sounds dismayed, but I believe he is secretly enjoying the prospect of more sawing! We have five fallen trees! he exclaims, but when I suggest hiring Sam to come and take care of them, he says no. Ah. I get it. But this particular tree is unfortunate in the damage to our brand new fencing. As no cows are here at the moment, there’s time to do the work. Weather permitting, which it isn’t. And of course, even Larry knows he can’t mend the fence. That will involve Grant who, as I pointed out earlier, will be here this weekend.

So this morning we wake up in the month of March. Fog, temp below 32, our cell phones inform us. But there is work to be done in cleaning the garage, always a favorite. We’re on it!

HENRIETTA AND SALLY ARE DEAD

Monday morning and I’m leaving for Portland. Sister Martha has been here for the weekend; we’ve visited some apartments in Charbonneau (wrong on many counts, cross that off the list), been to the ballet in Eugene (Romeo and Juliet, fabulous), talked, laughed, you know. But my appointment is at 11:00, so after a smoothie for breakfast, I leave first. On the fence around the orchard, I see a hawk sitting just above the chicken coop, so I madly honk to scare it away, then drive off.

I get to Portland and call Larry, as per, to check on any items he wants me to bring home, but his phone goes straight to message. Rats. Okay, I’ll text him. My phone rings, it’s Larry, but if he hears me, he doesn’t respond. Double rats. Oh well.

But then my phone rings again, and this time we’re connected, and I hear the sad news. Henrietta and Sally are dead. Rhodie has survived, but she isn’t talking. The bodies are in the nest, so apparently the hawk has crawled in through the little light-sensitive door and attacked the birds inside.

Larry asks if I want him to dispose of the bodies, or wait until I get back. Uh, no, dear, you go ahead. Brave man, who has gotten a few laughs in discussions of what we’ll do if. But needs must.

When I get back I go to visit Rhodie. She’s numb, has stayed on the nest all day, but when I call her, she manages to get down the ladder. I can’t tell if she’s hurt, nothing visible, but she’s in shock for sure. I’m not sure if she needs a companion chicken, or if we just enjoy their silly behavior, but we determine to find a replacement chicken. Does that sound heartless?

Craig’s List, we’re told at Wilco where we go to enquire after our options, and, of course, to admire the new crop of chicks. They are desperately cute, but we’re not that desperate. And sure enough, Craig’s List does have pullets for sale. Lots of them. So we won’t have to wait until the next farm Faire in April to find our new Henrietta or Sally. Just one or the other, for now.

We find someone with Novogens for sale, so, Henrietta then. We’re to meet them back at Wilco with $20 at 10:00. To prepare, Larry decides to clean the coop, put down new bedding, clean the water, etc. We’re pleased to see that Rhodie is more responsive, and I go inside to take a shower.

Full disclosure: I pretty much don’t take my phone with me wherever, so that would include the bathroom. I search the closet, take my shower, take my time, and am just reaching for the blow-dryer when I hear Larry’s ring tone, out in the dining room.

“Hi. What’s up? Just drying my hair.”

“Think you could wait on that and come out here? I’m locked in the coop.”

What!? (This is me, trying not to laugh.) See, there’s a little mechanism that should prevent this sort of thing. A cord threads through the hook and into the coop. Should the door accidentally close, the human inside can simply pull on the cord and unlatch the door. But the cord has become tangled and the device doesn’t work. He’s stuck. Rhodie doesn’t care.

Fortunately, he HAS taken his phone with him, on this day, anyway. “How many times did you call me?” I ask.

“That was the fourth.” Oh God. Don’t laugh.

Everything sorted out, we head for Wilco and Henrietta II. She’s too young to be laying yet, be another month or so. With the shock, Rhodie isn’t producing, so for now, we’re eggless. But here she is, hiding behind Rhodie in the newly-cleaned coop:

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Don’t know where you are, but it’s been raining non-stop here. Muddy Creek is looking like a river for sure, the roadside ditches are full. We did the prosaic stuff: trip to the post-office, the grocery, and heard people talking about floods, power failures. Just like last week, when it was about the huge snow storm that didn’t. We’ll see, but in the meantime, it’s a really good excuse for postponing any farm work. Like planting bulbs?

Now I would like to respond to Vik’s comment on my last post. If you haven’t seen it, go there. You are all welcome, who come here, to have the pleasure of knowing that at long last, the driveway is behind you. You have survived the hawks, the cougars, the black feral cat, the starlings, the geese, the egrets and herons and sheep, the huge snakes that ply the fields, the cows, if cows there be, and yes, have arrived! Hooray!

Brr, just came in from siting the ill-chosen foundation plants from last spring. The 6′ rose that crowded out the gentle lavender, the catmint ditto, the peonies that bloomed alright, but not in the peony shape that we’d expected. Sigh.

“Seems like replanting is something you “farmers” could manage on your own. I mean, you self-prune trees, and so on.”

True, but it’s more complicated, in that the auto sprinkling system is involved, and the guys are here anyway.

“If you say so. What guys are we talking about, anyway?”

These guys:

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Allen and Vaughn, Landscape people. The spent several days last week working on the path, which looks beautiful under the recent blue skies. We thought a bench would be a good idea, and the amazing Allen just climbed a downed branch with his chain saw, and created a slab for the bench seat.

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Here’s the path going around the corner:

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But what they’re doing in the first photo is completing the original driveway scheme whereby there will be a line separating the driveway gravel from the “courtyard” gravel, with two Japanese cherry trees on either side. I put quotes around the word “courtyard” because it suggests something far more genteel, perhaps European, than is actually the case. Like, we’re in Corvallis?

I was describing this to a massage therapist to whom we’d been referred after our Portland practitioner abandoned the field in favor of her on-line jewelry business. I know. She made more selling jewelry and teaching others how to make it than she could rubbing knots out of client’s muscles and bones? Guess so. Anyway, the new practitioner down valley, as they say here, reacted to my description of the path. “Is this something for the public? Like trails or something? For walking their dogs?”

Well, no. Just for us? I’m afraid so.

I need to talk a bit about our weekend. What with one thing and another, we had Saturday off and decided to use the time in service of answering the question What Next? On the previous Saturday we’d had a meeting in our condo with a Portland realtor to help us establish a price, should we actually decide to sell it. This accelerated the necessity of deciding Then where we’ll go when we need to be in Portland. As our long-suffering friends will attest, we’ve been all over the map (literally), from Mirabella (retirement home) to a new but smaller condo in one of the many buildings going up around us, to an apartment in Charbonneau (village 30 minutes south of Portland), to Touch Mark (another retirement home) to the idea of just staying in a hotel as needed.

So, we took a tour of Touch Mark earlier in the month, and accepted the invitation to stay in one of their guest rooms for a weekend to give us the idea of what life in such a place would actually be like.

Readers. Those places are full of old people! Very friendly, welcoming, for all I know interesting, but it’s still a shock. The guest room was exactly like a hotel room, and was therefore helpful in illustrating that the hotel option probably won’t work. I forgot, for example, to bring socks and had to wear my boots barefoot all day. Annoying. We wanted to assess the food situation, and I have to report that lunch in the pub was delicious. But, $350.00 each per month? When we’re planning to use it as a weekend get-away?

Stay tuned. And yes, we do know that we are old people too. Thank you.

Now I’m looking out at the fence around our yard, where the old plants have been newly planted. Looks quite nice! The peonies were already sprouting new growth, which means that I need to get busy and plant the many bulbs we’ve been saving for the last couple of years. Problem is, I no longer know for sure which are tulips, which daffodils, as my sorting system has been the victim of heavy usage of the shed benches for tools, etc. And I want to go to the library — no, let’s be honest, I’ll be going to the book store — to find suggestions for foundation plants to fill the newly dug holes.

Lunch time. With Larry in Portland, I have an opportunity to clean out the refrig/freezer. I claim that I’m a good cook, and it’s fun to use my chops on all the left-over stuff. Which usually gets turned into soup, but today I’m looking a a remnant of frozen pigs-in-a-blanket from some long-ago appetizer, and some home-made, also frozen, Chinese dumplings. This is not promising for soup. Sort of a tapas meets dim sum? Oh well, it’s only lunch for one. Yum!

SNAKES AND OTHER LIVING CREATURES

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I’m not exactly afraid of snakes, but I don’t like coming across them accidentally. If there’s one in the barn, okay, I’ll just leave the barn. You can imagine the look on my scientist-entomologist father’s face when I once postulated, with all the wisdom of my 8-or-so years, that women are probably averse to snakes because of that long-ago unfortunate business in the Garden of Eden. My dad actually snorted at such foolishness, and I can hear him still.

Maybe you don’t notice the snake in this photo? The gray coil with the black stripe. No garter snake, this fellow. He unwound to about 3 feet, slowly realizing that he was un-hibernated and a very well behaved dog was watching. (Larry — yes, Larry — even commented that if he ever got a dog, it would be one of this dog’s brothers.)

Her name is Callie, and she belongs to Casey, who was down by the barn setting fence. The snake appeared when Casey pulled a snag tree out by the roots in order to facilitate the farm gate installation. This is where the cows will unload, if and when. But what’s important is that he also, finally, hauled away the tangle of fence post and rusted wire that had been decorating the entrance to the barn.

On the wildlife front, a New Year’s resolution has us walking Llewellyn to the end of Muddy Creek bridge and back, watching the river harvesting trees on her banks, swelling with the rains, and, to our delight, a river otter appearing just upstream from the bridge. Saw us and immediately submerged. Probably a nutria, scoffed my neighbor. Or mink, maybe. People! It was an otter.

Okay, Larry got the orchard trees pruned and then it was time to spray. While Larry has embraced the concept of out-sorcing the more challenging farm chores, he still reflexively goes straight to “I’ll do it” in many cases. And so it is with orchard spraying. However, copper sulfate, the spray authorized by organic farming, is pretty toxic. Must be applied before fruit buds are set, and the ground beneath the trees has to be protected. As you can imagine, no chickens can be present during the operation. So spreading the tarps, managing the fussy spray applicator, took more hours than the day has light. Had to be carried over to the following day, but he did it. Our trees are now safe from the fungal blight that has threatened the very life of one apple, one cherry tree.

Now the fun part. We had a long visit with Bill Peterson, Landscape Guy. We have wanted to add a couple of trees to the entrance gate at the lower end of the driveway, and at the point where the driveway gravel gives way to the courtyard gravel up by the house. Bill’s crew is good to go, we just have to see which trees he can source. Probably Japanese cherry up top and mountain hemlock by the road. Hold on! Just Googled mountain hemlock. Huge. We want an evergreen conifer, but? Maybe there’s a smaller cultivar? Will check. Anyway, the work will also continue on our path through the oak copse. And, just in time, the clouds are gathering. Won’t be as much fun to watch from under an umbrella. Just kidding about the umbrella.

Been thinking about our mission here. The plan is for Ryan to spray the low field along Llewellyn, then plant fescue or other forage. But our sprayed fields have been slow to green up this fall and winter. I begin to wonder if we haven’t strayed from the idea of improving the soil and veered instead to the raising of beef. The point of grazing is to manage the savanna/oak landscape, keep the grasses in check without fire or tractor power. But. How much spraying is too much? Yes, we have to reclaim the land from invasives, but has the cart gotten out in front of the horse? The whole plan is Fish & Wildlife conceived, so we have, in the vastness of our inexperience and stunning lack of knowledge, agreed. I think about our little otter, and the herons hunting frogs in the neighbor’s field, who have not yet tested our new pool but I have seen them contemplating a visit. What’s best for them?

Now Larry’s lovely chile is simmering on the stove. Chile Colorado, a Christmas gift recipe from daughter Jenny. I can hear the first raindrops and smell the bread rising. He prunes and sprays. He cooks, he bakes! Lucky me!