AUGUST, EARLY

ohmygod ohmygod OH MY GOD!

“I suppose I’m going to read about myself now,” Larry says when he’s back on dry land. “Don’t make it some big deal, because it wasn’t.”

Well, it was pretty . . .

“My kids will think they have to take away my drivers license, or something, and I wasn’t hurt, no harm done.”

It’s probably not apparent that he’s just climbing out of a hidden water hole in an otherwise dry creek. I didn’t react quickly enough to take a shot while he was chest deep in there, but I was very busy worrying. Should I call someone, should I get a rope, are you hurt . . .

“God, Jane. Just let me get my feet under me. I’m fine. I’ll crawl out.”

Which, as you see, he did. We were tansy hunting. His job to wrench the plants out by the roots, mine to clip off all the blossoms into the bin. (See them in there?) The good news, he wasn’t hurt, and the even good-er news was that he’d forgotten his phone that morning, and thus it was safely at home on the dresser instead of in the creek.

Drama on the farm.

We escaped on Friday for a quick overnight to Black Butte, staying with Martha, going to a concert featuring Tim O’Brien. A nice respite, an evening under the stars with sweet music at a park in Sisters.

But when we got home, Allen was at work on an oak tree that had fallen some time in the last year. I’d posted a photo at that time, amazed at its size and age. It has lain there of course, ever since, harboring an owl, according to our neighbor, and providing scaffolding for the relentless blackberry vines which would consume it, given time.

We supposed the wood was rotten, but Allen came to give it another look. He’s a valuable scavenger, taking the trunks of other fallen oaks on the property for the mill he’s building in his back yard. I know. Who does that? We haven’t been invited to see what this mill looks like, and hope to have a chance at some point.

But here are some photos of the process:

You may wonder how I happened to be down there taking photos? Fortunately, Larry had heard his arrival and came to get me and my camera. Well, my phone, actually, I don’t even know where my real camera may be. I suppose Larry hoped this might be the lead story this week?

Ha. Earlier, the pasture along Llewellyn had been mown, the seeds reaped, and it was time to bale the remaining straw. Here’s what that looks like:

This is just the beginning of the baling process. Now there are bales strewn about the field, waiting in the sunshine to be collected.

Several posts ago I told you that I was having fun planning to play some music with a friend who plays the guitar? We seem to have mutually run into about a hundred miles of reason while this wouldn’t work very well. But he, Dick, did tell me about a new banjo shop which had arrived in Sisters, and that I should have a look.

Planning, as I was to be in Sisters, see above, I checked this out, learned the name of the owner and looked him up. Sent him an email requesting an appointment to have him sharpen up my banjo before I head off to banjo camp in September. Never heard back.

Okay, picked up the phone and left a message. Didn’t hear back, until a few days later when I got a text from him. He’s in France, so won’t be able to help. But was I interested in lessons? Whoa! Did he mean, like, on line lessons?

I don’t know. Who is he, anyway. Of course I turned to Google and found him: “See, when I was on stage once with the Dixie Chicks, and . . . ” Oh. And he was offering lessons? A couple of texts later, when I learned that he would be back in Sisters, I turned to a piece of advice I’d recently heard: Don’t let fear keep you from reaching for your goals. I know, something my new Apple watch would tell me. In fact, maybe that’s where I did hear it.

Anyway, why not. Let’s do this, I told him. “Could you send me a record of your playing so I can see where “you’re at (sic)”? he asks. (I’ll work on his grammar later.) (When we’re really good friends) In the mean time, speaking of fear! Send him a record of my playing? Um. Right.

But I did it, and am nervously waiting to hear something back. So far, what with being in France, both of his texts to me have arrived at about 1:30 a.m., waking me, of course. Maybe tonight? He says that he’ll be back in Sisters soon, so the idea of lessons isn’t quite so ridiculous. Except it is. Hey, remember what your watch told you?

I’ve just asked Larry if he has anything to add for the blog and he says no, can’t think of anything. So that’s it for today.

FARMING?

Sometimes it’s like this. Five o’clock, but he’s awake anyway, and this is the morning he plans to spray the thistle, blackberry, and tansy. Overcast, cool, no wind. It’s hard work. Carrying a 3-gallon pack of glyphosate spray on his back through the hip-high grasses of the Fish and Wildlife acres.

He’s quiet, tries to slip out without waking me, but it’s okay. I’ve been awake for awhile, too. “I can drive the ATV so you can just get in and out to spray,” I say, but he says no. The stuff is evil. You have to wear a mask and goggles, and it wouldn’t help much, anyway.

I guess not, but I wish he didn’t have to do this. What’s the equation that connects Roundup with these toxic, invasive, plants? This is the question, isn’t it? We can’t just hire our “guys” for this work — have to have a pro, and just try to find one.

Here’s tansy ragwort:

“It isΒ toxic to all classes of livestock but most toxic to cattle and horses. At doses likely to be ingested, it causes a chronic liver disease that is seen as a cirrhosis-like hepatic degeneration. Affected animals generally die within several weeks or months after the tansy ragwort has been eaten.”

I don’t know if “our” cows are stupid/hungry enough to eat the stuff, but we’ll have to try to keep them safe and healthy.

There’s a natural control, the Cinnabar moth, so Larry will look before spraying to see if a given plant has the caterpillars on board. Here’s one. Pretty, huh?

Exhausted, Larry comes in at noon or so, after spraying three loads of chemical spray. Me, the DDT-queen, I hate using the chemicals. My dad was an entomologist/chemist who dreamed of making the Willamette Valley feed the world using the stuff. And yes, I know what DDT means, not that anyone ever asks. Guess I’m not the DDT queen any more,

Next day, Sunday, we decided to go to the beach. I wanted to swing by a little town called Eddyville on the way. Our daily paper obituary section featured the death of a 97 year-old woman named Wilma Mae Eagleson. What! Eagleson? You know that’s my maiden name, right? So who is this person?

I hoped to poke around, find the drug store, ask about her family. Yeah, well, no luck. This Eddyville does have a post office, but that’s it. No cosy little grocery, actually no nothing that we could see. Hmm. The long-lost relative will remain lost. On to Newport and the harbor.

We like to go to a restaurant there called Local Ocean. Fish and sea food right from those boats. Lesson learned: Don’t order the grilled calamari salad unless you like sushi-grade calamari, aka grilled inner-tube salad. Disappointment! The crab cakes were awesome. But don’t plan on picking up some crab meat to take home and make your own. $69.95 a pound. Yikes!

This morning, Monday, it’s still cool at 6:00, and we’ve decided to get out in the fields and pull the tansy that didn’t get sprayed on Saturday. It will be in the 90s by this afternoon, so we hop to it. We’ll just drive around the same F & W acres, check to see if the sprayed plants have wilted. This time, I’m allowed to help:

We clip the buds from the thistle, bag them in the paper bags we use to hold the tansy, and chop the plants to the ground. Can’t do much about the blackberry, not by hand. I drive the ATV, and Larry can’t help asking. “Do you keep taking your foot off the pedal?” You know how your mom used to drive that way — speed up, slow down, make you crazy? “No,” I say. “It just does that.” He rolls his eyes. It’s true! It does!

The End. For today, anyway. We’ll get up again in the morning to walk the fenced-off creeks, in which we see more tansy. But for now, we’re relaxing in our cool, air-conditioned house. We’re watching a baby swallow who fell from his nest. Mom and Dad keep feeding the little one, but I hope he/she. figures out how to fly, stat.

Larry wants to buy a new printer for his computer this afternoon. Seems “they” don’t repair broken models. This will be a challenge, that is, getting a new printer to bond with his computer. Hmm. Late breaking: he’s spoken with Peter, who advised him to take his problem to Best Buy. They will, he asserts, be able to get everything connected and working. We’ll see. But suddenly it’s dinner time, and there was a 40 minute wait to talk to a Best Buy guy in Springfield. Maybe you know that the World track-and-field Championships have been in Eugene for the past 10 days. Good reason to avoid Springfield/Eugene. Maybe tomorrow?

Supposed to be another heat wave this week, temps in the 100’s. Any farming gets done will have to be done early. I’ll let you know.

4th of JULY

It was going to be great. Allison and her mom had the beach house for the holiday, the far-flung kids would all be there, Jenny and Tom had found a way to join the party, and, here’s the amazing part, Jan and his family would be joining us all for the big celebration. You remember Jan, our exchange student from Germany all those years ago? Jan, pronounced “Yan,” in case you’re confused, his wife Angelika, and their Lotte and Oskar.

Great enough that I cowboy-ed up and climbed on an airplane, the second flight in a fortnight, I might add. Yeah, what’s a fortnight? Okay, longer than that, but still.

We arrived in the foreign country of Newport Beach, CA. Or more specifically, the island of Balboa, to learn that Angelika had tested positive. They would not be joining us.

Well, damn. Okay, maybe Jan and the kids could come over as planned the next day, and we would all sit outside, masked.? Meanwhile, A and P’s friends, the Lees, had offered a ride down the canal atop their pontoon boat. It’s so gorgeous there, you would want to immediately quit your jobs, sell your houses, and move to Balboa. But you can’t. Not unless you have about 8 to 10 spare million for one of the houses on sale there in the realtor windows.

It’s true, but I do want to make one thing clear: Allison’s great grandmother had purchased their place in 1925. Not sure if that was for the land or if the cottage had already been built, but it cost $1500, Margie, Allison’s mom told me. It’s pure charm, adorable, surrounded by expensive splendor. Right on the canal, you can sit on the patio and watch people canoe, paddle board, jump off the bridge.

But I want to stop here and perform a public service. It’s about the important bitter-sweet rules of being an old lady. Of which I am one. You know how you look at an elderly person and think “do I look that old?” Yes, in fact you do.

We’ll start here. I’ve been led to believe that old people fall down all the time. I haven’t witnessed examples of old people crumpled here and there all around, but at every intersection with a person of the medical persuasion I am asked “Have you been falling?” My advice, therefore, is Watch Your Step. Don’t trip, stumble, think no-one will notice. “There goes another one down,” and your Primary Care will hear of it and take away your driver’s license. Or your daughter-in-law will tell your daughter, and that’s just as bad.

Next, yes, extra-long black false eyelashes are definitely in style right now. We’re all so tired of those masks covering up our beautiful smiles, so let’s focus on our eyes. But they’re not meant for you, my fellow LOL. Little Old Lady. Tattoos? Probably better give them a pass. Okay, how about those super short skirts or shorts which reveal the whole butt from the thong out? I’m thinking no. Please.

It’s okay if you can’t figure out how to acquire your boarding pass on your phone. Make your son do it. Calling for Uber from Starbucks can be tricky if your phone won’t do what you tell it to, but don’t worry. There’s a young person nearby who will be willing to help. You just have to ask, and if she calls you “honey,” that’s okay, too.

People may want to do things for you that you can do perfectly well yourself. And “Are you okay to walk here, on the sand?” Of course you are. “Can you manage these stairs, or should we take the ramp?” Jesus. No snapping. You have to accept this sort of thing with the grace which you have learned in your long years.

We know how funny we can be at a gathering. Right? One grandkid tells a cute story about how he was busted buying beer, how he had to give up the fake I.D., turn over the beer and ride his sorry ass home on his bike. But your story about how Boris Johnson’s resignation is the first instance in history of sinking ships leaving the rats just isn’t equally funny in this setting. Wait for your book club. They’ll get it.

Above all, don’t try to use a foreign language. What do “swag” or “queen” even mean? Not what you think.

What I’m saying is, it’s fine to be old you. Wear something expensive and gorgeous, even if you pick it out at the Good Will store, and smile your beautiful enigmatic smile. Remember that you were young once, and they’ll be old soon enough. Then have another glass of that lovely Moet.

Back to Balboa! Jan and his two kids did come over to the cottage the next day. We sat outside, wore our masks, and managed to have a lovely, funny time. His daughter, Lotte, is the age Jan was when he arrived in Oregon to live with us for a year. She’s beautiful, and it’s hard to comprehend how mature 16 years old can be. Of course, Covid changed everything for those school years in Germany, too.

And our grands? Amy living in a brownstone in New York, working. Charlie spending a semester in Vienna, then a couple of weeks in Jordan, I think, riding an uncooperative camel. Alli in Europe and what she loved most was her time in Poland, visiting, among other wonders, a salt mine. The little cat which adopted her in Mykonos. Andrew cooking lamb racks with Grandma Margie, and Will working for a moving company over the summer. Better pay than the golf course of last year, and more interesting.

Here’s the one photo I can offer:

Left row front: Will, Alli, Jenny. Top, behind the POLY shirt, Charlie, Andrew, Peter, Amy. Front row middle: Margie, Allison. I’m assuming you can identify me, Larry.

Okay, so how long is a fortnight? Fourteen days. Seems the old English counted the nights, not the days, so “fourt” “fourteen” and “night” was because the two-week period was fourteen nights.

Back home at the farm, the dishwasher is chugging, Larry reading the Economist, and me? I need to go practice! Banjo camp is approaching.

JUNE 2022

First, Peter came for the weekend. He’s discovered a start-up commuter airline which flies between Burbank and Eugene. Score, right? He came alone this time, bearing a surprise gift:

Three pounds of kumquats. And what does one do with three pounds of kumquats?

Make jelly, of course. The kumquat is a citrus fruit, and you may eat the whole thing raw, skin, seeds, and all. But the jelly is a process. You have to slice them and extract the seeds. This takes three grown adults about 2 hours total for this many pints. You chop the fruit in the processor, add sugar (lots of sugar) and pectin and boil the mix. The 7 1/2 pints you see here used about one fourth of the fruit.

Yum! I made another batch and will be passing this jelly on to friends, but I have another pound to go. Okay, I’m a good, inventive cook. First I used some in my morning smoothie. I’m thinking kumquat crisp? Why not. Salads? Sure. But it’s golden and I’ll freeze what I can’t use for the long winter ahead. Thanks, Peter!

Of course we put the boy to work:

Drive the tractor! So there was this mulch pile, right in view, out next to the shed. Grass clippings at first, but then garden debris, the shavings from the chicken coop, and, most recently, the broken daily broken egg that Maddie, Chicken Number Two, has been laying of late. Whoa. Getting pretty ripe in addition to just plain ugly.

I’m surprised we waited for Peter’s visit. Seriously. Sigh. Farming is a lot of work!

I take advantage, whenever I can, to ask one of my kids or grandkids for help in the brave new world of, for example, Instagram. Although I’m statutorily too old to participate, yes, I do know that, I asked Peter to set me up with an account. Wanted to follow Amy in New York, Charlie wherever in the world, and Alli off in Europe. And the rest of them wherever. Fine. I’m in. Now I’ve just read a book which was constructed entirely from Instagram posts, and it was actually pretty entertaining. Okay, no one uses blogs to communicate any more but what even is a hashtag, anyway? Just looks like a pound sign. Right? I’m afraid I’m stuck with the blog. Sorry.

To continue, when our little house in the country was being built, we knew we wanted to have a gate at the end of the driveway. Which is about a third of a mile away, and out of sight of, the house. And of course, the meant gate posts. Not sure what we’d imagined, but what we got was this:

Nothing particularly wrong with this, but the whole thing just looked completely out of scale. The cross-post had to be sufficiently high to allow the fire trucks to pass (surprising how much control the fire district has over one’s driveway). And so there it stood, relating to nothing.

Allen and Mitch, our go-to guys, were on it.

They repurposed all the wood, and here we have the result. This feels like a nice and quiet “here you are at the Viehls” instead of” THE VIEHLS!” or at least I think so. (And I’m the one who counts, in case you haven’t noticed 😘):

This morning, Marjorie-from-across-the-field took me with her to a nearby equestrian competition, and I’m going to try an experiment. If it works, here’s a video she took:

Um, nope, won’t travel across. But here’s a still photo, so you can get the idea:

We were sitting just off the edge of the grass, watching these gorgeous animals compete. I mean, the riders were competing — I don’t know if these horses sense any competition. Marjorie says the sport is a lifetime commitment, and she should know. She’s ridden for much of her life in events like these, and still would/could if she wanted to. Amazing.

I grew up horse-crazy, but for me it was riding Babe, a lumbering old swayback nag, behind my sister, dreaming of Zane Grey and the purple sage. I had no idea. You can only laugh.

Larry is just back from a few days with the Nature Conservancy at the Zumwalt Prairie in North-eastern Oregon. This was to have been a long-planned trip with friends Vik and Gordon, but. You know. First the White-Davises couldn’t make it, then I had my toe surgery and can’t wear boots, so Larry had a solo outing.

Next up, a trip to California on board Avelo Airlines for the 4th of July. We’re meeting Jan Scheffler, our exchange student from long-ago. He’s brought his family to show his kids the US. Apparently they wanted to see Malibu, Hollywood, Disneyland, instead of Corvallis. Huh. Going to be such fun to see them, and in the meantime, I’m going to try a re-learn how to send photos via text to recover the quality demonstrated in the jumping horse just above.

It’s ten o’clock, and my Apple watch has jumped around on my arm to get my attention. Wants me to pause and reflect a moment. Isn’t that so sweet? I’m kidding. Who asked it to be my meditation counsellor? The other annoying habit is to interrupt my walks down the road to observe that it looks like I’m exercising. Would I like to record my activity? I have pointed out that “I can just take you off, you know,” but it does’t listen. Do any of you have Apple watches? Can you control them? If so, let me know how.

Meanwhile, I am going to jump into bed. Try to win the Spider game for today, and then to keep reading an excruciating painful/brilliant book a friend loaned: Stoner, by John Williams. On second thought, maybe I’ll just listen to a Lisa Jewell book on Audible. Stoner breaks my heart. My Apple watch approves my choice.

G’night!

ONE HUNDRED ACRES

“Hey Jane! Come here quick!”

So I did:

This may or may not be the “cougar” I saw earlier, but this is definitely a bobcat. We saw his cropped tail, though we couldn’t catch a photo to document it.

What do we know about bobcats? About 18 inches long, 12-14 inches tall at the shoulder. Most of the photos on Natl. Geo showed a tawny, mottled coat. Our guy is tawny, can’t tell about his spots. They can leap 12 feet, and dine on rabbits and rodents and unsecured chickens. This photo is west of the house, on the Fish & Wildlife acres. Kind of exciting, right? Don’t worry, our chickens are secured.

“Hey, Larry! I think Ryan’s here to move the cows across to the other pasture!”

The red truck and trailer parked halfway down the driveway must mean a cattle drive was underway, and Larry wouldn’t want to miss that. We each poured a cup of coffee and took up a post where we could see the action.

There were two cowboys on the job, Jake and Anthony, and it was raining. Down-pouring. One of them got the ATV off the trailer while the other took down the rails and wire from the fence on opposite sides of the road. Might have been more entertaining if they were on horseback, but this isn’t Montana, so.

The cows are aware that something is afoot, and they bolt for the farthest corner of the pasture. Not visible, but there is a fence between them and the rail fence close to the house. They can’t come any closer to us:

And the fun begins. This pasture slopes down the hill and through a stand of oaks. These are herd animals, is a so if one goes, they all go. The trick will be to persuade one of them to notice the gap in the fence, but after half an hour, none of them has spotted it.

Back and forth, the rain coming down. Mud splashing on their boots — made me reconsider my childhood dream of becoming a cow girl.

But all’s well, they did eventually make it through, and now they have approx. 30 acres of lovely grass to eat, some giant oaks to shelter under, and now Jake and Anthony can go home. Show over.

For perspective, the first photo of the bobcat shows the field between my camera (phone) and the cows. Same direction.

“Cross my heart-Hope to die-Poke a needle in my eye?”

Where did this come from? A child-hood rhyme? As I’m currently being treated with, in actual fact, a needle in the eye, I become curious.

I look it up: I find that the phrase originated in eras of plague and contagion. Those who died were buried in mass graves. This practice sometimes led to an unconscious or comatose patient mistakenly pronounced dead, and buried. To avoid this, caregivers were said to stick a needle in the eye of a patient to determine his status. Still alive?

Yikes! Not sure why the phrase migrated to childhood, and an assertion of truth telling, but if you’re wondering why I’m having a needle stuck in my eye, it has to do with broken blood vessels and built-up pressure and the necessity of seeing a retina specialist. Point is, yesterday I spent the afternoon in a certain amount of misery, and with a profound empathy for anyone with impaired vision. Poor me. But it’s fine this morning, and now we’re all a little more informed about certain medieval medical care Right?

On Saturday we made it home from a quick trip to Boulder to watch granddaughter Alli graduate U of Colorado. We’d meant to visit her, certainly earlier in her academic career, but this was the first time we’d actually done so. Feeling both appalled at how quickly 4 years went by, and able to blame Covid for our dereliction, we’re happy for her and believe her life will be interesting and rewarding.

How did we like Boulder? Hmm. It’s beautiful, tucked just under the Rockies, so if you simply look West, you’ll fall in love. Don’t look east. It does not end. Not a tree to be seen — okay a slight exaggeration — but it’s so flat and empty! Every so many miles along the highway from Denver to Boulder there are sudden vast acreages of new housing. All crowded together into instant cities with no apparent shopping, theaters, sandwich shops and etc. There will be an old farm house with outbuildings and fences and then all those sudden houses surrounding the remnants of someone’s dream of the west.

You all know how much I dislike air travel. Hasn’t changed. Ugh. Our flight to Boulder left Portland at 5:30 a.m. We spent the night in an airport motel, expecting an empty terminal and a quick hustle through security. Hahaha. I visited with some of my neighbors in line, but didn’t learn why so many of us were in such a dither to get to Denver that morning. As an old person, I’m not required to remove my shoes to get through security, but my artificial knees guarantee that I’ll be patted down after the MRI or whatever that machine produces. But this time, after the “pat-down” with latex gloves, I’m told to stand aside, I will need another, more complete examination. Would I like to go somewhere private?

What? What does this complete exam involve? Oh God. Well, whatever, no, I do not need/desire a private space. Why this, anyway? Apparently some lotion I used in the motel has causes alarm. Oh, yeah, I love to fly.

Safely home, Martha is coming this afternoon and we’ll go to the ballet in Eugene. It’s an adaptation of Taming of the Shrew. If you have nothing better to do, look up a summary of the play. Or, of course, read the original play in your “Complete Works of Shakespeare” Pretty confusing, but I expect the dance will be gorgeous despite the dubious take on the duties of Woman.

I’ll let you know if you should pick up that huge Complete Works. Good luck!

WE’RE A FARM AGAIN

Finally! Thirty heifers were delivered yesterday afternoon to the pasture around the barn. I’ve been wondering where “our” animals have been this year. The two large pastures are being prepped for planting with fescue, and won’t be available for grazing for another year, so there’s that. But the area around the barn is ripe and, at last, here they are:

And there they go.

They wouldn’t pose for a photo, but you get the idea.

We know heifers are female, right? I went to Google to learn how old they might be, when they might be bred (if they have been bred) and whatever else I might learn. Yes, all female cows are born with and have visible teats, but only those who are pregnant or have previously borne calves will have visible udders. Ours do not.

You know how, when you summon Google, you will see a list of questions which might be of interest on the subject? One inquiring mind posted the question: “What is a female bull called?”

Huh. Seriously? Ponder that for a moment and I’ll tell you the answer later.

No, I’ll just tell you now. The answer is a COW. The same person may be wondering what you call a female stallion. A city dweller, I’m guessing.

Before the heifers arrived, I had been meaning to write about earthworms. I’d walked down the road in the rain earlier in the week (by “road” I mean our driveway) and was amazed to see the tiny tubes of earthworm on the surface. Our road is gravel, pressed down by the years into a cement-like consistency in the two vehicle tracks. How do these unclad, boneless creatures manage to penetrate this barrier, and why, as they’re then visible to the busy robins?

I couldn’t learn how they do it, but there seem to be two theories about why. The rain, it is said, replicates the sound of moles digging, and the earthworms come to the surface to escape. The second idea is that the earth is saturated by the water and oxygen therefore scarce. They come up to breath. This one sounds more likely.

I watch them move, fascinated. Alive, but? Will they slip back down, through the cement after the rain? I walked the road several days later and there wasn’t a worm to be seen. So I don’t know.

We’ve been having a chicken problem. One of them has been laying eggs with the shells either too unsubstantial to contain the yolk and surrounding white, or she has been pecking at the shells after she lays them.

We have our chicken bible, and there were suggestions. Either insufficient calcium in the oyster shells we provide, or she’s aging out of the game. A menopausal chicken? Could be. We don’t know how old she is — this being Maddie — and as Rhody has already retired, it seems possible. But after several weeks of finding a mushed egg in the nest each morning, requiring a thorough cleaning, we went to WilCo to speak to their Chicken Guy.

He wasn’t able to provide a diagnosis, except to say that if I were feeding them chicken scraps, I should stop the practice. Didn’t like that advice. Of course chickens should have your celery tops, potato peels, or so I’ve been led to believe. Maybe not.

We discussed our choices. Larry is still unwilling to chop off heads. As am I, goes without saying. We can’t keep her out of the roost, can’t just toss her out of the car on the side of the road, which seems to be how others relieve themselves of unwanted pets. Just to be clear, I suppose these animals are pets, but not in the accepted definition of the word. We don’t pet them, for example. We enjoy watching them, we love having the eggs, but when necessary, we’ll do what we have to. Which is take them to the vet, endure their misunderstanding of the nature of our relationships, and have them euthanized.

But for the last two days, she’s laid two complete, unbroken eggs, earning a reprieve. Maybe it was the kitchen scraps?

Larry and I and were both startled to find last week that there’s something wrong with our new bathroom scale. After changing the battery and giving it another day or so to regroup, we were faced with the unfortunate conclusion that it was time for a “reset” of the humans involved in the equation. So there have been 8 days now, of dismal dining. Smoothies several times a day, salads with very little dressing, and “blended soups.” Probably exactly as you’d imagine a “blended soup.” Larry has shone in the project, shedding pounds with ease, while the woman in this story struggles to lose so much as an ounce. You’re right. It isn’t fair at all.

A brighter note, literally: Since leaving my band, back before Covid, I’ve been wishing to play somehow, with someone, as the trad banjo is not really a solo instrument. As finding another band is vanishingly unlikely, I picked up my five-string, bluegrass banjo and have been reacquainting myself with the instrument. I know, instrument of torture, as The NewYorker and other purveyors of taste would have it. “You can tuna fish but you can’t tuna banjo, haha.”

At the same time, a friend, Dick Sandvik, and I had been engaged in the sort of comment, upon seeing one another, that we should get together and play sometime. Dick plays guitar and sings, and has published his music, so you can see this would be pretty cool. For me. But it’s the kind of thing, you know, “we should” but never do.

And then I signed up for banjo camp in September and it began to get real. Suddenly, the idea of a practice buddy was too tempting to resist, and we are trying to get something to work out — remotely of course, as Dick and I live 150 miles apart.

Okay, I’ll try to record a song and send it off to Dick, who can then add his guitar and voice to the project. Yeah. That’s such a fun idea. In the first place, you have to have a microphone outside the computer. Easy enough. I buy a microphone.

In the second place, a recorded banjo solo — by me — sounds about as inviting as, as, well, you finish the sentence. Dick gently suggests I should acquire headphones in order that I might listen to the metronome — oh yeah, you have to have a metronome. Which I do, so no problem? But the metronome shouldn’t be in the recording, hence the headphone idea.

That’s where we are this evening. Tomorrow I’m going to get my Covid booster, and am going to Best Buy to explore this idea of headphones. And here’s a promise: IF I can manage it, if it’s even possible, when Dick and I do work up a respectable song, I’ll post it here. Dick, are you listening?

Meanwhile, keep up the good work! See ya.

MOSTLY LARRY

So he’s been in a funk most of February. The weather? Too cold to do anything outside, too cold for golf. His knee? Doesn’t work properly after the replacement replacement. Doc says there’s just a lot of scar tissue. Well, whose fault is that? Taxes? Yes. Larry’s really brilliant in a lot of ways, but bookkeeping isn’t one of them. His computer loses things, or whatever he needs is in Portland, or he never got it anyway.

Right. But now it’s March. It’s still cold, but the sun is shining. A guy can always bake bread!

It’s just as good as it looks. Side bar: Grammar note. I believe I’m supposed to say “it’s just so good as it looks.” But I’m a newly-arrived fan of John McWhorter, linguist at the NYT, and love the way he writes about language. (Well, about everything.) Remember when I was being proud of myself for using a semicolon? He quoted someone — I forget whom — saying people just use semicolons to demonstrate that they went to college. I suspect he might say the same thing about the usage above.

Okay, back to Larry. Don Quixote battling the voles, moles, deer, and, I have to admit, sometimes the chickens, threatening his serenity in our wild enclave. We have an orchard (he has an orchard?) as well as a vegetable garden. Both now fenced against the deer. No one can do anything about the voles and moles, but the chickens?

In the beginning, we both worked to surround the fruit trees with first, a newspaper mulch. Idea gleaned from the Huntington Garden in Pasadena, courtesy of Margie Lindbeck. This didn’t work here in rainy Corvallis, and we moved on to chicken wire under each tree. Lots of work! Staples, shears, sharp points? This because, by then, we had actual chickens, who love nothing more than to dig in the exposed dirt under each tree. Thereby exposing the tree’s roots.

Of course, weeds would grow through the wire, so we added a layer of chips (gleaned from the fallen oak trees on the property) atop the wire. Looked nice. For a year or two. But the chickens kicked the chips off the wire into the surrounding grass, making mowing difficult. The weeds grew through the wire and chips anyway.

Next, we had Mitch and Chance build a run along the orchard’s west border, covered with wire to keep the hawks out, and felt the the birds had adequate, safe, territory and didn’t need to be in the orchard at all. Then we had a fiery summer, and Rhody, Maddie, and Grace had no shade under which to shelter from the heat. In the main orchard we found them huddled behind two large planting boxes, the dirt and moisture from the watering system providing them shade and refrigeration. We tried putting the patio umbrella up in their run to shade them. Hahaha. No, they had to be allowed into the orchard. Where they resumed kicking and digging under the trees.

Now our story is up to today, and Larry’s search for a meaningful project. What if we dug up the wire and used landscape fabric, topped with landscape size rock as handsome, sturdy, chicken-proof mulch under the trees? Good idea! Here’s what that looks like:

And finally:

We haven’t yet turned the chickens loose to see what kind of damage they may be able to do. So what’s the point of all this work, anyway? You see the smile on Larry’s face? Sure, he could be lifting weights in a gym someplace but I think this has been more fun. You can ask him.

What have I been doing all this time? Besides cooking, laundry and so on you mean? Good question. With all that left-over yarn from Alli’s sweater, I thought I would just knit myself something. Didn’t have a pattern, but I could piggy-back on what I learned from Alli’s. Um. What I have, after many hours of work (okay, I listened to books from Libby and Audible) — what I have is a great overgrown, lumpish potato sack. Warm, yes. But the sleeves are too narrow and besides, it’s kind of all-over ugly. I canvassed my sisters, and they were thoughtful, supportive. If I love knitting, I should tear it up and make it right. I said I tell them what I decide next Sunday at our regularly scheduled phone visit.

Got the sweater out of the Good Will bag and thought about unpicking all those end pieces I’d sewn into the body with a darning needle. Nope. I just couldn’t. I’ve now put the thing back into the Good Will, and turned it in. It’s OVER.

Next? I hand-picked all the fallen blossoms from the camellia by the front door, and the daffodils are blooming. We both feel better!

The sky is beautiful right now, dinner is smelling pretty good, Larry is chilling with a beer, laughing at something on his email feed. I can’t discuss world affairs on this blog, but I will say I’m mindful of our good fortune. See you next time!

Oh, February

That dreary tag-end of winter while we wait for the light to come back? It hasn’t been so bad, all foggy mornings and moon-lit nights. Fires in the fireplace and books to read. Then this:

Ryan showed up with his shiny new tractor hauling what he informed me is a field cultivator. Time to work on the west pasture, been lying fallow all year. But first he had to thread the needle through gates below the barn.

Love the way Ryan solves problems! An old board and a stump from the burn pile, and there’s a ramp. Do you wish you had a farm? This cultivator opens like a book, and soon there were wide swaths of brown earth where green weeds had been. Nice.

Next on the calendar was Martha’s arrival Saturday mid-day, in Corvallis to take her sister (me) to the ballet in Eugene Sunday afternoon. Apparently the word “ballet” can refer to individual works of varying length. In this case, we saw five individual pieces, all choreographed by women. Traditionally, we were told in the program, men wrote the steps, women simply performed them. The way of the world. The best dance of this new order was the story of ghosts, come to frequent the stage after a performance when the audience has gone home. Those gorgeous bodies. Sigh.

The next week, my neighbor-across-the-field, Marjorie, invited me to join her on a trip to Inavale, a riding academy. She was “auditioning” her dogs for a place in the kennel there, which one does when we’re talking about a kennel in an academy. No worries, her two dogs are beautifully trained, and were accepted for a spot when called for.

Here’s one of the boarders in the academy. Seriously:

But honestly, we’re talking about a completely new world here. Thoroughbreds, and silk jackets, and beautiful boots. You know, a fox and hounds? Right here in Corvallis? There will be a show later in the spring, and I can’t wait to go. That afternoon, we were lucky to watch a rider schooling a young Icelandic pony (?) in a training circle. Just sitting in the sunshine while I learned about such things as “shoulder in” and “hard stop.”:

But back to the farm. Larry has been engaged in a battle of wits with the local herd of deer, members of which have determined his garden is a good lunch spot. They can jump over anything we’ve posited so far, and just laugh as they hear us talk about getting a dog. They know Larry, they know that’s an empty threat. But spring is in the air, the seed catalogs have arrived. What to do?

I think this is called hog wire, which Mitch and Chance spent all day yesterday attaching to the existing rail fence. See the tall post in the corner? That will brace posts of equal height attached to the current posts, and strung along that higher level with wire strands. Think this will work?

In the background, you can see the field I mentioned earlier. And those straggly plants in the foreground are baby leeks. Yum.

Larry has descended from his atelier where he was watching golf and reading the Economist, asks if I’m ready to go. We’re looking for a dimension of mirror which I can hang on the bedroom door, to enable some attempt at fashionable hair drying in which I can see the back of my head. “Atelier?” It’s because I was writing about that riding academy. Was also reading “The Other Bennett Girl,” in the style of Jane Austin. Must make a course correction! Yikes!

Until next time . . .

LIFE STORY

Acorns once fell to the earth, put down roots and then, three to four hundred years later, crashed as giant oaks back to the earth. Wind, rain, ice, old age? Here’s the most recent windfall, came down last weekend. You can see that it’s been dead a while, and that the acorn woodpeckers have turned it into a granary tree. Each of the holes stuffed with acorns.

And that’s one way the story ends. Across our fence, you will note, and onto the neighbor’s property. A big clutter, and we are grateful to Mitch and Chance who like to earn auxiliary cash on some weekends by sawing, bucking, stacking.

But last year, the trees which fell were more statuesque, with long, straight trunks which Allen wanted to salvage. Remember Allen? He’s going to build a mill in his back yard and plane the trees into planks which he will use to floor his living room. Allen is also the one who built the stone work on our patio, who raises bees under the oaks in our Fish and Wildlife acres.

He had stashed 10 trunks from last year’s windfalls by the barn, to season for a year, or maybe to wait until he built his mill. He came by this weekend to collect the wood. A little photo essay:

Does he just rent that equipment, I ask Larry this evening while I’m typing this. “No, he owns it.” I guess someone who is building his own mill will have the necessary. That’s Larry on the John Deere, btw, his John Deere. Always fun to put it to such manly work, right?

The story of these trees isn’t ending in ignominy across a scrappy fence.

Mitch and Chance have indicated that they’d like to try to sell the firewood they’ve cut these past two years. They’ll have to rent a splitter, find the customers, haul it away. Why not? You’ve seen that we have already a century of firewood split and stacked in our barn,

Another ending to the story:

This is tonight’s fire, in front of which, Larry sits reading. Dark Star, by Alan Furst.

But I expect you’d like an update on our Gracie? Who lost her feathers? She has been reunited with her flock, and her feathers are growing back. This photo won’t make it clear, but we are optimistic that she’ll fully recover:

A little family news: Charlie has arrived in Vienna for his semester abroad. His sister Amy thinks Grandpa Larry should hire a private plane and fly us all to Austria to visit him this spring. Grandpa Larry has shown no enthusiasm for this plan, but I have to admit I like the sound of it. Just kidding, Larry!

Charlie has a story. He went to a cafe and, trying out his brand new German, asked if he could get a coke and fries. “Is that what you really want?” asked the waitress, presumably in English, “or is that just all you know how to order?” Busted.

So life has resumed, despite Omicron, despite the weather? We had tickets to the Oregon Symphony’s concert in Salem Friday night, and there, huddled in the seats of the Willamette U’s concert hall, masked up, of course, heard Scheherazade. Gorgeous. I wish you had been there, too.

After a week of cold, blue-sky weather, the rains have returned. I’m going to find my book and join Larry by the fire. Reading Ann Cleves’ Blue Lightening. Just a cozy little mystery story sited on Fair Isle, Scotland. Perfect for a rainy Sunday evening.

Gracie, and etc.

It’s my fault. Of course it is. Because my newly-straightened toe wouldn’t fit into any boot (except the orthopedic one), I haven’t been out to see my chickens in several weeks. Don’t worry, Larry has been cleaning the coop, gathering the eggs, but he doesn’t actually interact with the birds. So a day ago I set out to have a little chat, tell them they might want to get back to the business of laying eggs, now that the molt is over, and found poor Gracie, practically plucked clean:

When she flaps her wings, you can see that the rest of her body looks just as naked as the back of her neck.

A quick trip to Google told me that chickens may be plucking their own feathers in response to mites, boredom, whatever, or another chicken may be bullying her. Well, I don’t believe any chicken could be plucking the back of her own neck, see above, so have to assume one of the other girls is doing the damage. Don’t know who started the fight, but it’s clear we need to separate them.

Larry and I got to work yesterday in a lull in the rain. We have these built-in planters in the orchard, and one of them would be the correct size for a little quarantine time. An over-sized pot turned sideways, some bedding material, the outdoor watering can, and she would be good for some days.

Yeah. Try catching her. I explained that we were helping her, but she chose not believe me and escaped into the orchard. Modestly said, I do believe this would have been a good little video for YouTube. Over the fence, into the weeds, a box of treats in my one hand, a larger box for capture in the other, and around we went. She eventually made a break for the coop, the door standing open, and I was able to trap her heading up the ladder to the nest.

But she couldn’t live outside in the rain. A tarp would be good:

You can see the enthusiasm on Larry’s face.

Out of the rain, probably not warm enough without a full complement of feathers, but secure, we thought. Looks ugly as hell, but, oh well. Temporary, right?

We made a quick trip to Wilco for some further accessories, like a suspendible feeder, some bungee cords to hold the tarp in place; a trip to the barn provided hands-full of straw for the floor of the new “coop.”

Today I went out to check on her, and found her perfectly immobile.
“I think she’s dead,” I told Larry. Yes, her eyes were open, maybe it’s just a coma. Happy to say, I just came back in from another look, provided with some dried worm candy, and she came to life, pecked at the treats. Hope she makes it.

Meanwhile. What else is going on? Today is planting day. Integrative Resource Mgmt. is planting 500 new trees in the fenced stream beds across the property. One hundred willow, and assorted aspen, choke cherry, oak and ash. Probably just twigs, but it’s fun to imagine their future.

And, backing up, we spent a couple of days at Black Butte, one night in the company of the California Viehl boys, up north for some skiing:

For those of you who haven’t seen them in a while, that’s Andrew on the left, Charlie on the right. Among the trivia we’ve learned is the sad fact that pizza restaurants are closed on Mondays. Not just in Sisters, apparently world wide. Who doesn’t know that? We made do.

Peter brought me some Meyer lemons from their tree back home. Gorgeous, and I am, just at this minute, engaged in making some marmalade. Waiting for the dishwasher to finish sterilizing the jars. Meyer lemon marmalade is essentially just sugar dolled up to look like jelly, so, therefore, I expect it to be delicious.

In closing I’d like to point out that, for the first time since writing the blog, I’ve utilized a semi-colon. So proud. Hope I used it correctly!πŸ˜™ H