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!๐Ÿ˜™ H

2022

I walked the road for the first time in my hammer-toe boot this afternoon. Cold, fresh air, sun on the green grass of the pastures, the holy oak trees wondering at the fuss. What does 2022 mean to them? Who tried to catch time and imprison it on a calendar?

But December has been a curious month, what with Christmas in Seattle (great), the snow (beautiful, after we got safely home), and the realization that Larry and I no longer have any urban mojo, whatsoever. It may have been, in my case, the incident with me, the drug dealer, and my parking space in the condo garage.

So 5 or 6 years back, we had an electric outlet installed next to my parking space in order that I could keep a charge in my little hybrid car’s battery. A month ago, our realtor noticed a car parked in my space, using the electricity to charge his beautiful Tesla. She left a note, he texted me an apology. The end. Until we arrived in Portland the following week to find the car, still in my space, still using the electricity, for which we are billed.

I sent him a quick, friendly text. “Hey, you can use the outlet, no worries, but use an extension cord, don’t park in my space.”

“Oh, sorry, I’m out of town, but will have my partner move the car. 100%.”

Next week, still in my space. “Hey, thought we had an understanding. You can use the electricity but NOT my space. Going to be really pissed if I have to park on the street because you’re camped out on my property. Who are you, anyway?”

“Sorry, I’m out of town. Won’t happen again. My car was broken into and I have to take it to the shop.”

Not sure why that’s relevant, but okay. Windows were smashed in the car. A Tesla, remember. “Sorry about your car. Bummer. Listen, maybe we can arrange to have the outlet moved so you can charge it in your own space.”

Now we’re up to last week. Larry and I drive up to Portland on Sunday and there’s the Tesla, in Larry’s space! And in my, adjoining, space, another, apparently unrelated car. Oddly, Tesla-guy is right there as we drive up. WTF? I’ll just move the Tesla, he says, gets in, and drives around the garage.

I write a note to the stranger’s car. “Don’t park here! You know this is private property. If I find you here again, I’ll have you towed.” See, I’m getting urban here, no longer Ms. Friendly, oh-go-ahead-and-use-my-electricity.

Turns out this is Mr. Tesla’s car as well. NOW HE’S USING BOTH OUR PARKING SPACES.

I write him one more text. “You can’t use our spaces. Do I have to contact management?”

He writes back: “I moved the car and I hope I never have to talk to you again.”

Don’t you love it? He’s the aggrieved party and I’m a bitch.

“Duh,” my friend Vik points out. Let’s add it up. ” Expensive car in a very ordinary city rental loft building. Broken windows. Out of town. A drug dealer, dummy.”

She’s probably right. I’m being all sweet and friendly to a drug dealer. Get an edge, Janie girl.

The following Monday, we have the day to spend in Portland. I get the bright idea to drive out to the regional shopping center for lunch at a hot, new Taiwanese restaurant. It’s the week before Christmas. A shopping center. Traffic jam for miles. What made me think we could even find a parking space, should we ever eventually even get to the shopping center?

We have lunch instead at a restaurant just down the block from our condo the Ten Barrel, a brew pub with a seat-yourself vibe. The menu’s a QR code. I don’t have a reader activated on my phone. Turns out, Larry does, but by the time we figure out how to use it, we’re not even hungry any more. Couldn’t you just write the menu on a chalk board? Burgers, fries. Simple..

Sigh. Time is passing us by, but more slowly here in the country, flock of sheep across the road, blue herons in the vernal pool, Muddy Creek at flood stage. At the moment Larry is upstairs in his “office” watching the Rose Bowl. I’m knitting a sweater for Alli. Ripping it out and knitting it again. Harder than it looks!

Anybody have any good resolutions? I do, but I think I won’t say them out loud. It’s a brand new chance to get it better, if not completely right. Yes, I know I won’t/can’t keep them, but the idea did put me to sleep last night (finally) when I wasn’t able to solve the question of why the new year starts 11 days after the solstice. I mean, new year? Time? I’ll ask my sister, Mary, the bio-physicist. I’ll get back to you.

TRIBE

After a quiet Thanksgiving, the West Coast members of the Viehl clan were rounded up to join in celebrating Elsa’s wedding. Elsa is the grand-daughter of Allan Viehl, (Larry’s brother), daughter of Kelly Viehl Anderson, and thus a full-blood member of the tribe. The ceremony was to be in Boone, Iowa, and no, I’d never heard of it either. But I’m not blood at all, so feel a bit like an interstellar time traveler when my space ship delivers me to a tribal event such as this wedding.

The West Coast members are, at this time, Larry, Peter, and Andrew Viehl. We were missing Allison, Peter’s wife, and David. Allison gave up her place for the trip to Andrew, and the other available Viehl, David, simply wasn’t available.

Tom and Jenny and I were happy be to hangers-on when the space ship was this beauty:

Yep. A private plane. Seriously? But the tribe called, and why not? We landed in Des Moines, checked into a motel in Urbandale, and went to find something to eat. Which turned out to be an affair called Smokey D’s, once featured on Guy Fieri. They do know their BBQ in Iowa, and how to serve it. Check. I experience the first wave of sweet mid-Western culture in a place where infants and toddlers can be observed chewing on a rib.

By the way, the legend on Andrew’s jacket means Just Enjoy This Life — a good mandate which were were determined to observe.

On to Ames the next day in our rental cars. A moment of hilarity when the dude checking out the cars wondered if Peter and Larry were twins. What? No, that lasted longer than a moment and soon became the springboard for lots of smart remarks. Of course, Larry loved it.

At the new motel we were able to check in, change into our wedding finery, and be off to the wedding in the afore-mentioned Boone. At the end of several dirt roads, we found the wonderful barn-like structure, a newly, purposefully built, venue. And there they all were.

At this moment I discovered that I’d left my phone behind in my every-day purse, and would have to rely on others for photos to share.

First, here are Larry and Allan. Allan has had the misfortune to stumble on the stairs at home on Thanksgiving Day, to break both bones in his left leg, and thus get to attend the wedding courtesy of a wheel chair. Now these two might look like twins, right?

Fortunately, Allan had his boys there to take care of him. They run big in this tribe, as you can see from the next photo, which, sorry, is the only one I can offer. This is Kyle, Allan’s second son, dad to Delaney who, upon learning that we were coming, was shocked. “You mean there’s more Viehls than just us?”

My sister-in-law, Gloria, is one of those talented, amazing women who can make works of art out of the assignment to make, for example, cookies for the reception.

She made those? Dozens of them, all different? Yes, plus little place-treats, cookie pops dressed up in a tux or bridal gown, by the hundreds. I think Starbucks got the idea from her. Anyway, she belongs to a tribe of her own, the Gaymans, who were there with husbands and sons and daughters and grandkids . . .

What about the bride? Getting there. Elsa is Kelly’s youngest, and she is stunning, gorgeous, smart, and well, tall like the rest of them. As the attendants were coming down the aisle ahead of the bride, we were treated to one beautiful, very tall young woman after another. Ah. Got it. Elsa played college b-ball, and these women were her team-mates and friends. Wow.

I don’t know anything much about the groom, except he seems pretty happy. Duh.

I got to sit next to Steve, Elsa’s dad, at the wedding dinner. He’s a devoted, successful hunter — if you’re his Facebook friend you could see the photos of the gorgeous birds he brings down and home. I took the opportunity to query him about cooking the elk steak I mentioned in an earlier post, and told him I’d post the results. That will have to wait until I actually cook the steaks, and then I’ll let you all know.

I had a chance to talk with Ken, Kristi Viehl’s husband, who works for the FAA, doing traffic control for the Sioux City airport. He’s a lieutenant colonel in the Air Guards, spends active duty when deployed, wherever they send him. Such as the Middle East, for example. This year, somewhere in the southern U.S. Not sure where, but it does mean being away from home for the duration. From Kristi and their two munchkins, Emerson and Hudson. Tough. Appreciated.

We were with the tribe for about 7-8 hours out of a three-day trip. All worth it. Especially as we got to be with our own far-flung segment for the entire time. And who wouldn’t like flying in a sweet little airplane, with a pilot who graduated OSU in ’17, who began flying with his dad at the age of 6, who got his license at the age of 17? Even this confirmed flightophobe could relax and enjoy looking down on the plains and mountains of this-land-is-your land, etc. Okay, I’m lying. I didn’t actually relax. But the mountains are exciting seen from that close.

Back at the farm, Larry has recovered his mojo, successfully tuned the tractor with an appliance delivered by Amazon. Say what you will.

Yesterday, a rain-filled, dismal, morning, a crew arrived to remove huge patches of blackberry, which they’d earlier sprayed to death. And now, the fields are mowed, the leaves spent, fall has arrived. Welcome home.

LIFE IN THE TIME

Upon opening my site, I learn that I’m running on an outdated PHT program, or similar, and wouldn’t I like to update? NOOOO! Please don’t make me! I’ll proceed on the hope that the machine won’t reach out and cancel me in the fashion so popular of late. So, until such time, here we go:

David and Caroline arrived safely for a visit, upon completion of physical exams mandated by their application for limited entry into the promised land of New Zealand. Said application requires quite a bit of input from Larry, proving that a long-ago transfer of certain assets to our kids was indeed legitimate. Like, “were you a robot? Prove it! What is your favorite pet’s middle name, and did your mother ever live in Tallahassee Florida?”

While we’re always happy to see our family, we’re not too proud to put them to work. See Jenny and family splitting wood on earlier post. David is tall and strong, and finally we have someone who can get those canvasses hung in the entry hall.

My needlepoint project for the last couple of years — those of you familiar with the creation story will be alarmed that we’ve hung the canvasses in the incorrect order. We know. This is to balance the size of the frames, so not necessary to write a letter to the editor.

Caroline proved her worth when she was able to decode the free-standing wall-mounted heat/ac appliance in “my office” aka “the room over the garage.” Been freezing up there of late, so her clever manipulation of digital devices was life-changing for us.

Off to Seattle to see Jenny and Tom, to have a look at the new house. It’s going to be gorgeous!

The first photo is obvious, the second is the garden wall in the back yard. Not sure that the Ederers are as enchanted as am I with the cosy, private nature of the fence, but their garden will have no lawn, and looks like the perfect urban retreat.

We had dinner at a sweet little Madison Park Italian restaurant and caught up with stories featuring Alli, busy cooking and posting gorgeous recipes, and Will, dealing with sleeping porch issues in the Beta house on the U Dub campus.

In Portland, the infuriating problems with the condo keep multiplying. First, the necessity of replacing the air conditioning unit above the laundry room launched us into the great throng of citizens affected by the dreaded Supply Chain Affair. Several months in, we finally received the parts, and worker bees would be able to dismantle the entire room for installation. But wait. They cannot get into the condo. Nope. Neither can we. The fobs and codes do not work any longer. Somehow, the building owner thinks its okay to lock us out of our home. I’ll spare you the narrative, but we are still waiting. We do finally have, dear reader, a single fob to get us up the elevator, and a single fob to let us into the garage, but must await the pleasure of the building manager to receive the extras that we need.

Back at the farm, what happened to the guy from Applied Ecology who was supposed to meet with us and make plans? The one who simply didn’t come on the arranged day two weeks ago? He came yesterday, bringing apologies and an apparently sincere promise to help. This is an organization which will assist owners with habitat restoration. He says he’ll bring an associate, who’s an arborist, to walk the property, assess what changes we can make to attract native plants and animals (to include soil microorganisms). Sounds good! Basically, we just want a comprehensive plan for the savanna, the riparian forest, the wetland, the oak copse — all with differing eco requirements.

The leaves have fallen, the spent vines and stalks in the garden have been piled behind the fence, the huge bounty of grapes are quietly falling to the ground to be harvested by honey bees and, alas, yellow-jackets. We’ve moved the tender perennials to the greenhouse, turned off the automatic watering system. We’ve heard the first flocks of geese flying past, and built the first fires in the fireplace.

We attended the first concert of the Oregon symphony held in Salem. It feels lovely to be hearing live music again, and yet . . . masks. Martha will arrive in the morning, and we’ll go to Eugene for the first ballet of the season. Masks. Again. Yes, this may be the future, forever, and we will adjust, but some of the magic is dimmed. It just is.

For me, the time of Covid has also been the time of Books, and I’m currently reading one that’s so complex and wonderful that I’m happy for all 575 pages. Even though, a BOTM club volume, it’s hard-back, and thus heavy. Only a problem because I like to stretch out on the sofa and read while lying down. No, I know you always sit up straight and have good lighting, and I’m proud of you. Oh, yeah. The book is The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles. I’ll loan you my copy if you’d like. I’m already on p. 497.

Lunch time, and we’re out of bread. Larry has changed the leaking shower, paid the taxes, cleaned the chicken coop, but can’t deliver more of his awesome bread for sandwiches. Hmm. Must troll the refrige for leftovers. See you next time!

SOLSTICE

“Oh my gosh! Larry! Come quick!”

“What?”

“I don’t know. A really big cat, and it has a long tail. Just walking along behind the fence.” But Larry can’t come quick, and by the time he stumps into the dining room, I’ve become impatient and opened the door to the porch. The animal startles, stares, and bounds away. Larry can just see his head as he disappears into the weeds.

“Looks like a feral cat.”

“No, it’s bigger than that. What does a cougar look like?”

“Jane.” He knows I like a good story, but he isn’t willing to go so far as cougar. “I don’t know. It was probably just a cat.”

So he doesn’t believe me. My bad. I shouldn’t have opened the door. But I know what I saw. “You do know because I just told you.”

Ha. Won that argument.

And while I can’t really ID a cougar, I am pretty confident of my skills in the kitchen. Example:

Right. You can probably tell that the first shot was an apple pie that stayed in the oven too long, but you might need help recognizing an angel food cake in the second. Doesn’t work without a tube pan.

Maybe it was just a cat.

And Kelly, I’m glad you’re not piggy-backing on my Hulu account!

Larry and I had an executive meeting to plot preparations for fall. 1.) Pull out the wire mesh around the orchard trees, fertilize, determine how to deal with the chickens digging around the tree roots. 2.) Build shelves in the new shed. 3.) Clean and organize the old shed. 4.) Move the picnic table down to the barn. 5.) Move tender plants into the greenhouse. Most of these chores demand a two-legged man, so we’re working on that, too.

We’re asked to decide what to do about the newly prepared pastures. Plant something now to look better, which will be sprayed next spring before planting with fescue? Just leave the dirt fallow, do nothing, and spray whatever comes up next spring before planting with fescue?

Why not plant some nitrogen-fixing legume, then till it in? I ask. Don’t spray! We need advice, but Jarod, of F&W says this question is above his pay grade. We remembered Donna Schmidt, Benton County, recommending the Institute of Applied Ecology. Sounds pretty fancy, and right here in Corvallis! I phoned them, got connected with the director, who has expressed interest in seeing what we’re up to, and will come out here next Tuesday to have a look and make suggestions. This is good!

And here’s what’s fun: Over the weekend, Amy and Mike came to town to visit Amy’s sister, Marjorie, and Ted. They had expressed interest in collecting some of our oak firewood to take back to their home in the mountains near Prineville. They’re pretty amazing. Just back from a long trip across country, camping out every night on the way. They heat their home with just a wood stove. They eat, Mike tells us, only meat that they harvest. “harvest!” That’s a word.

“Do you hunt with bow or rifle?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says.

I have a photo, but it wouldn’t be fair — you’ll just have to imagine the glorious push-broom mustache and the laughing eyes behind it.

Someone mentioned the big cat I’d seen earlier that day. Amy, who reminds me of my own sister, Mary, asked a couple of questions about it/him, and pronounced cougar. Yes! She explained that a 2 year old male would be looking for his own territory in this season. Neither Larry nor I doubt her authority.

They loaded the trailer and as they were leaving, Mike produced a package of two frozen elk steaks for us. Like New York strip, he said, and proceeded to tell us how to cook them. We must use a tenderizer gadget, he insisted, and be sure to under-cook them. In a cast iron skillet or on the fire. Well. Wow.

And speaking of sisters, Happy Birthday, Martha! A day late, but she’ll forgive me, I think, because I gave her a present: A jigsaw puzzle featuring insects arranged artistically. Yep. Good old Dad.

See you in October!

SKUNKED

When I left you last week, Alexa was playing soft piano music as we drifted off to sleep. I think I’ve already told most of you, but, well, what do we all know about skunks, anyway? Why is one under our house, and why did he/she spray? The female will spray a male if she does not care to mate with him, I have learned, but hey, it’s August. Not mating season, right? So, predator?

The next morning, I go in search of possible skunk entrance and find:

Holy crap! I show Larry my photo and we begin to strategize. But I know what I’ll do. Call a friendly neighbor who happens to be sort of a genius engineer. You know, the kind who will plan and build, by himself, seismic reinforcement for his house? A little skunk burrow shouldn’t wrinkle his brow.

He comes over, measures the hole, returns with a 2×4 whittled to size, soaked in some preservative, a shop light on a wire, and some super-strength vinegar. Advises the purchase of a Nest camera, which will digitally catch the perp, and I’m ready to deal. Meanwhile, I have the inspiration to sift cornstarch on the path. Anybody goes in there, I’ll know it.

Now, a week later, no sign of any traffic into the hole. No smell. Did the vinegar and the light do the trick? Larry sits across from me working on the Nest camera, which has helpfully just arrived. We’ll mount it by the garden . . .

So how’s it going, two weeks in on the surgery? Um, we’re both tired. But the bandage is off the knee, he’s in rehab (physical, that is), still hoping to be golfing come October. I’ve been doing a lot of work outside that Larry would normally do. And here’s the thing. When we began this live-in-the-country gig, we did everything together. Standing in the back of the pickup pouring water onto the new driveway trees. It’s dark but it’s light because the moon is full and it’s magic. Like that.

But over time, we began to assume roles. When there are branches to saw from a fallen tree, Larry does it himself or gets Mitch, a guy who works for us sometimes, to help. He straps on the backpack and sprays blackberries. He tills his garden. Grows squash and potatoes and tomatoes.

I do the laundry. Plan and cook the meals. Can or freeze the squash and tomatoes. Of course, we both do both, sort of. Like dishes, for example, although dishes are not the same.

But now, today I went out in the morning to check on the chicken’s water and found that I’d left the hose on all night, watering a rhododendron. OMG, I’m horrified that I’ve run the well dry. (Don’t worry, I didn’t). But the chicken’s watering system had run dry — and needed to be cleaned. That chore done, I weed-whacked the orchard fence and dead-headed the dahlias. I had to haul the trash bins up from the road and into the barn.

When I looked up, it was noon. I had forgotten. I like this work.

Of course, I can’t do this alone, but I mean to pull on my boots more often when Larry has both legs under him again.

Changing the subject, neighbor Terri had the inspiration to bring Larry some of her vast puzzle collection to pass the time while he mends. Good idea! He’s motored through one thousand-piecer, but this?

He finally had to play the color-blind card and walk away. So there it sat on the table and what could I do. Can’t just walk by, and so. Pretty soon all my thoughts about strong-woman farming drifted away. I made peanut-butter cookies. Sigh.

I said earlier that we’re tired. I’ve been having a fight with my devices — having to do with compromised passwords, or so my computer tells me. And I have an appointment tomorrow with SimplyMac, who will, I hope, inform me that I don’t have to change every. single. password. If someone in DesMoines is using my information on a different computer, I say, have at it. Maybe you can get Hulu to work for you.

Yawn. Must stay up until 9 pm. I’m listening to a book — have you been watching Chair? So there’s a bit in the show about David Duchovny. I looked him up, and found his novel Truly Like Lightning. Wow. Read by the author. I’m loving it, thinking I’d like to read it, as well. Of course I know I won’t. But so you know, yeah.

G’night!

QUARANTINE

Note to my future self: Remember, if/when you read this, that a post cannot be considered an actual timeline of events. And we’re in the Time of Covid, now, today, when one has a hard time realizing what day of the week it is, even when it actually is a given day of the week.

Note to everyone else: We’ve been engaged these last few weeks, no matter how the days arranged themselves, in a race to finish the coming winter chores before Larry submitted to knee-replacement replacement surgery.

And if you’re just now reading this, Friday, September 3, Larry has emerged from the anesthesia with a shiny new knee joint — okay, I don’t know if it’s literally shiny — is dozing in his hospital bed after a rigorous morning of physical therapy, and is awaiting the judgement of some “infectious disease” experts re the course of an antibiotic regime.

Backing up, we learned that he was to quarantine himself for two weeks before the surgery. But what did that exactly mean? We were about to define the term for ourselves. Starting with an invitation to view some property Green Belt Land Trust is acquiring. Or hoping to acquire. Yes, sure, we’re being “developed” but we understand and approve.

The weather was cooperative, and we met Jessica from the Trust, and another supporter, in the Bald Hill parking area. In good quarantine compliance mode, we masked up and climbed into the back seat of Jessica’s car. To travel a few hundred feet to see the gorgeous property under consideration:

This is 140 acres of oak savanna, similar to our own hundred acre property, though it is missing the individual heritage trees with which we’re fortunately graced. I was eager to pick Jessica’s professional brain in exchange for being “developed.” As you see, grass is being raised here, but is not subsequently grazed.

Haying season, and watch out for these trucks lumbering down the local roads. Yes, you’ll get caught behind one of them, but you have to relax. You’ll get there.

We were meant to go on a walk into the woods bordering this property, and it was silent and lovely in the woods, though the walk was very short. Just on the edge of the field, someone had built this picnic table. Sweet.

Thinking we need such a table under our shady “homestead” tree out by the orchard.

Next up were Jenny, Tom, and Will, who flew down (using miles!) from Seattle to finally split and remove the wood lying in Fish and Wildlife territory alongside the road. There were two jobs remaining that were torturing Larry, and this was the first. Pretty nice to have teenagers in the family who, in addition to helping with infuriating tech problems, can man a chain saw. This applies to any of our five amazing grandkids.

Quarantine? Yes, distance and no hugs, but these are our family, all double vacced. Right?

We were about to test the limit when we were invited to dinner at a friend’s home over at Black Butte Ranch. We hadn’t seen her since way before Covid, and we had some bedding to haul over to our own home there, so? Okay, I could go to the dinner, but Larry, no. All the guests that night are vacced, but they aren’t family, and I can’t claim bubble, so, we just broke the rules, kind-of. I mean, I’m not quarantining? I did bring home a half-bottle of wine from the party, so Larry felt better about missing the fun.

Next problem? Gordon and Vik are on it. The marion-berries have to be twined about their wires before Larry can spread wood chips in the aisles, and then along the driveway-garden interface. These berries apparently like to sprawl their long arms out and into the squash, cabbages, onions. Which, fine, but how would we pick them, come ripening? Here’s how they look after several hours of hard, sweaty work. By the men, that is, though Vik and I walked down from time to time to enquire how it was going.

They’re not our family, but they are our bubble, so, outside, distance, etc.

We had a surprise request from Jeanne Ederer, finally taking us up on the invitation to come on down to the farm. Jeanne and Ted are Jenny’s in-laws, with whom we share some of those above-mentioned amazing grandkids. They were spending a few days on the Oregon coast, and thought they might be able to visit us here. Oh, man. We are being tested! Of course we would want to see them. Besides, they’re practically family. Really. Outside only, distance, they sit here, we sit there, and we did have a lovely evening.

And we’re within a week of the surgery. Now we are really going to isolate. Definitely. So when a proposed meeting with Jarod of Fish and Wildlife, Donna of Benton County, and Matt, the plant procurer, came together, we had to — well, we just had to meet with them. Down by the barn, masks at all times, distance, and we were able to put together a plan for berry spray, 500 new trees along the creek banks, and an opportunity for Matt to address the oak trees of the copse, which need thinning.

I usually find myself on the outside of these plans, looking in, and believe that’s how the above folks also find me. True, I’m not the one who does the actual work, but it’s somewhat odd. Two of the organizations I’ve mentioned today are headed by women. Very smart women. So I don’t quite get why I end these meetings feeling like, you know, the girl. Do you think it’s because the stupid questions I ask really are stupid? I mean, what’s wrong with enquiring if goats might help with the blackberry problem? If we should thin the ash seedlings in the riparian forest? The answer “if that’s what you want” isn’t helpful. Grrr.

It’s Saturday night, September 4. Larry has come home. The infection is under control. He’s peacefully sleeping, Alexa playing Pandora Solo Piano Music. I spent an hour this afternoon learning how to run the therapy bike which we will have for three weeks. The dishwasher’s running, the sun has set. We made an attempt to settle the patient up in my space above the garage, but we think we’ll have to find a better way tomorrow. But for now, ahhhh.

And thank you to all our friends who expressed concern, wishes, love for Larry. It worked! And personal thanks to friends and my own beautiful Peter, David, and Jenny, who helped me get through these hard two days!

OREGON WHITE OAK

I had to scroll back to find the date when the tree, the subject of this entry, crashed to the ground. December 24, and we watched as the ancient giant fell, directly alongside us, as if to give us the best seats in the house. Winter, then, but not icy, no high winds. Just the end, it seemed, of its life. Now I’m not so sure.

But I have to stop here to correct a grievous error, with thanks to my most dependable editor: If you have access to the “comments” attached to this blog, you will have seen that I mistakenly attributed the book, One Long River of Song, to David James Duncan. This lyrical, joyous, posthumous collection was instead written by Brian Doyle. My apologies! Duncan, btw, wrote The Reason Why and The Brothers K. (Now you don’t have to look him up, but you might like to find one of these books.)

Back to the tree. The first job, cleaning the branches and smaller limbs, was made easier by help from friendly neighbors, Marjorie and Ted, booted, helmeted up and ready to go.

Later in the winter, the Lorax came to do the larger work of detaching the main trunk, sawing the limbs into manageable chunks, and chipping the wild mass of debris. Look back in the blog to see a photo of their cute little truck.

We were surprised, and pleased, when Allen, one of our landscape guys/bee guy, asked if he might have the large, straight, stretch of the trunk. Well, sure. He intends to season the wood for a year, during which time he’ll build a mill out by his workshop. He plans to mill planks and use them as flooring in his home. Right. Pretty innovative. “I’ll just build a mill.”

So early this summer, here he came, provisioned with rental trailer, skid-steer, and a brother to collect the wood:

This is the root, which Allen won’t be saving, but has used his equipment to help clear the field for later F&W work. Below are the trunks of several other fallen trees he has collected. Can’t tell which is the one we are discussing.

Here’s a photo of a typical cross section. Note the rings of fire damage. And who knows who or what has been nibbling on the heart wood.

Last Sunday, Larry rented a splitter, and Mitch came over to put in a day’s hard labor outside his regular, day job:

This little doo-dah is run by the first assistant laborer, who simultaneously presses on a knob and depresses a lever which hydraulically moves the splitter. My job. Should be easy. Ha. I mean, it is easy, but very tiring to stand there pushing on that knob and pulling the lever. Of course, it is more difficult to heft those chunks of tree onto the platform. Anyway, after 7 hours hard work (I abandoned them at noon and Larry took over the knob-pushing job.) we were exhausted.

What comes next:

Should you need some firewood, let us know!

But I began this blog with the intention of talking about Oregon white oak, of which this is one sample. Quercus garryana. Musing on the life of this tree, whose life can hardly be said to be over, has led me to the Web, seeking information about these heritage trees. Briefly, only 3% of the original oak habitat remains in the Willamette Valley, due to fire suppression, development, and conversion to agricultural land. Of this 3%, 98% is on private land. Suddenly this seems to be a huge responsibility for our 100 acres of this land, and we need to learn a great deal more. I’ve located an organization called the Oak Accord, and will be in touch. I’ll let you know what they have to say.

Later, I mean. For now, I’ll just close by telling you that we had a sweet weekend at Black Butte with most of our family together — missing David and Caroline — but the five cousins were hilarious. Ranging from Will at one end and Andrew at the other, they soon became a pod. I learned some new things.

Bracing for some scorching weather in the next days, I remain, etc. Yours.

ARE YOU BORED?

Camp Estrogen, you know, where the six of us run away for a few days and laugh and eat Cheetos for breakfast and play miniature golf, Camp is over. It’s Monday. I’m tired.

Camp was at our house this year and of course it was great fun. So the kitchen electrical outlets didn’t work and we had to set up the coffee pot in the living room and the waffle iron in the living room? And Sue couldn’t get in the gate so called me and my car wouldn’t start when I went to let her in? So I had to take the ATV, but the reason my car wouldn’t start was because I had forgotten to take the keys to the garage? No, we hadn’t had any wine yet, but that situation didn’t last too long.

But let me catch you up first. I was showing you that field along Llewellyn where the field had been mowed overnight. It was cut again for some unknown reason, and then this showed up one morning:

Threshing, we supposed. And then again, over night, the great machines came and gathered up the sheaves into bales, stacked them, and drove them away before I could record the action.

The young, green rows of fescue, hidden beneath the hay, have emerged looking like success. I don’t know if the product is hay or straw, because don’t know if the seeds were gathered by that threshing machine.

But back to today. We spent an overnight at Black Butte on Sunday to run a check on the place after two weeks of occupancy by family friends. Had they unplugged the circulating hot water, turned off the hot tub, and so on. While there we met with friends Tom and Dorsey for drinks at the Pub. Dorsey asked me if I was ever bored. What did I do with myself these days? I thought the answer to that question might be my next blog. Yes, I’m aware that the threat of boredom hangs over the project for you who may read this. What do I do all day?

At home this morning, I jotted notes as the day began.

Larry wanted to water the new maple trees, which involves some hose gymnastics. We don’t want to use precious house water for outside projects, so had to uncouple, unwind, rewind, attach, two unrelated hoses. Have you ever unwound a hose that didn’t kink, stall, wrap itself around a standing flower pot and overturn it? Right. That wasn’t boring.

Now that we’re living in an entirely new climate zone, it has become necessary to do any hard work in the cool of the morning. First thing was to thin the apple trees. Again. For the second time. The trees are determined to mount a huge crop which a.) we can’t use, and b.) will break limbs under the weight. We dumped the culls over the fence where the yellow jackets are welcome to them.

They may look ripe but they’re not.

Once, during Camp, Maddie, one of our chickens, somehow escaped the orchard. She would have to have flown up onto one of the planting boxes, and from there flown over the entirely fenced orchard. Like 6 airborne feet. She could do that, no problem. She always follows me, so it’s not a problem to get her back into the orchard. But when we were unloading the car on arrival from Black Butte last evening, there she was, out again. Don’t know for how long, but she’s demonstrating the size of her intellect. She apparently can’t fly back into the orchard from the ground and therefore has no access to food or, more important, water.

But if she’s going to fly out, and if we don’t know it, we can’t leave the girls the run of the orchard any longer. They will have to live within the coop and the run we’ve built for them. The only problem here is that they can’t then hunker down behind the planter boxes where it’s cool. Can’t be pleasant to be a chicken when it’s 90 plus degrees outside. I had the bright idea of filling a plastic box with all the frozen do-dahs we use to move food in a cooler. Put it in the coop where it would provide at least a spot of cool for the girls to enjoy. Larry rolls his eyes, and I can see that you do, too. Oh well, I’m used to it.

After settling Maddie and the others, we crashed on the North porch with a coffee when we heard yelling. Or maybe just the cows. No, that was definitely yelling. I could see the cows down below gathering, so understood that Scott was moving them. We were losing our cows?

Down the road to check, and there they were:

Happily grazing in the new, Llewellyn pasture. Full circle. Mommas and their babies. I love this!

Then it was ten a.m. Larry had his workout with Nancy at 11, and he was advised to stay OFF HIS WOUNDED SWOLLEN KNEE. Duh? He decided that one way to stay off it was to drive to Baumann’s farm, an amazing country farm store somewhat north of Salem. A couple hour’s drive. It was going to be a hot afternoon, and the idea of a drive in the air conditioned car was sort-of pleasant. Plus this farm store! OMG, the peaches and cherries? The cukes are ready for pickling, but we decided that was a bridge too far, so satisfied ourselves with the fruit and some outrageous marion-berry scones.

We listened to his new Pandora station and just chilled for the afternoon. Sat on the patio before dinner, debated (argued) about buying a refrigerator to use as a root cellar for all the potatoes, cabbage and onions ripening in the garden. A quick trip to the Googleator (thanks Vik) told us that we couldn’t store the onions and potatoes together because the onions would cause the potatoes to sprout. But we could put the apples and potatoes together. What about the onions? Didn’t get the issue resolved.

And now I am really tired, and am off to bed. But I’m not bored. Usually. Not today, anyway. You?

HEAT WAVE

Let’s start here: last Saturday night at 8 p.m. we packed up and headed north for Portland to check on the condo’s air-conditioner, reportedly non-functioning in the bedroom end. It was. Non-functioning, that is, but we were not able to correct the situation, and slept on the miserable convertible couch in the “den”, rolled together like two mismatched sausages in the cooler side of the apartment. We were later to learn that the cause of the failure was a practice of the manufacturer to send equipment to the Pacific N.W. that could not cool when the temperatures reached 100 degrees plus. Because, you know, it’s always cold and rainy in the Pacific N.W. and why offer capacity that will never be needed?

But we can give all the plants outside a huge drink of water, against the coming 114-degrees-in-Portland. In the morning, we left at daylight to get home so soon as possible and found that the field of fescue turning golden in the Llewellyn pasture had been transformed to:

Wow. Overnight? Guess the harvester likes to work at dawn, these hot days, anyway. Good. We made breakfast and prepared to spend the hot spell comfortable inside our conditioned farm house.

Which is exactly when we discovered that we have no internet connection. Well, so what? We have books, we can watch Netflix, we can . . . or no, we can’t. Watch Netflix. I can’t work my Spyder solitaire. I can’t download something on Audible. I can’t Google a recipe for all that escarole from the garden. While I can get my mail, thanks to a personal hot spot on my phone, Larry can’t get his. We become somewhat crabby, and send a text to our tech guy Tyson, even though it is Sunday. We’re stuck inside. It’s too hot. Poor us.

Tyson can’t get back to us until today, which is Thursday, July 1. We learn just how dependent we are on our “devices.” Pretty dependent, and we’re not even on Tik Tok or similar, the names of which I don’t even know, don’t know what I’m missing. Facebook, say, though I am there. For all the good it has done me this week.

The days crept by, we stay married, only barely, maybe. We catch up on our reading. Larry catches up, as best he can, on his investment stuff, which is his post-retirement profession.

Then we had a call from Kate, the gardener who has created and maintained the “rooftop garden” at the condo. She has time to meet us there on Wednesday, and we can attack both the wild overgrowth of everything and repair heat damage to same. By then, the temperature is back to normal and we spend a pleasant, albeit challenging, 5 hours or so, trying to ready the property for another attempt at a sale. We decide to remove 8 of the pots, finding a home for them somewhere at the farm.

For this project we’ve driven the truck, and all goes well until we try to lift one of those overgrown pots up into the truck bed. Not a chance, even with the added help of Kate’s assistant, Nev.

But Larry has begun the job of power-washing, and Kate has a plan to move the pots when her partner, Mike, can assist. She’ll put them into her truck and deliver them to Corvallis on Friday. We’re good.

Those of you who know Larry are aware that he has been suffering an onslaught of coughing, lasting at least 6 weeks. I can tell you how many friends and passers-by who suggest that he should see a doctor. Seventeen, at least. He has already seen the Urgent Care folks, who have ex-rayed, poked, measured, and found nothing to offer but some cough-suppressant capsules. His primary-care doc cannot see him until July 28, even though Larry NEEDS to see him.

But. When we get back to Corvallis he has finally had enough. We buy an McDonalds ice cream cone each and head for the Emergency room at the hospital.

You know how that goes. Sign in and wait. They take two chest ex-rays and he returns to the waiting room. An hour goes by, and they finally have a room for him. At least they let me stay with him now that things are looser Covid-wise. He gets into the charming gown and they hook him up. All normal. It will be awhile before a doctor can see him. Like another hour. Fortunately we have our devices and they have internet, so we occupy ourselves catching up.

“They’re not going to find anything and I hate this.” Larry says. This is not a suspense novel, so I can tell you that they did not find anything. But they sure tried. Maybe he has a pulmonary embolism? To find out, they perform ultrasound on his swollen leg. Nothing. His leg is swollen from an injury. They suggest GERD and hook him up to a breath treatment. They take a blood sample. It will take at least an hour to get the results.

They show me how to find a cafe where I can find coffee for Larry and a sandwich for me. Plus some necessary chocolate. Luckily, I have a story on my phone, so I pull a chair over and we listen to “Norwegian by Night.”

At midnight the doctor comes with the results. No embolism. Nothing from the blood test (they spared us the knowledge of that for which they were searching.)

We got home by 1 a.m., fell into bed, and this morning, Tyson, Computer Guy arrived to restore us to the digital world. I sit at my typewriter, tired but certainly happy and relieved. Larry has a prescription for Prednisone and an inhaler. (!) And, while we were away, this is what happened to the field, see above.

They have collected the grass seed, and will bale this when time and weather permit. Probably some pre-dawn morning when I won’t be able to watch, but will certainly photograph the stacked bales when and if.

Thank you for listening! See ya next time. ๐Ÿ˜ŽJane