A WEEK ALONE

“So Larry’s out of town for a week? Hmm. I’m guessing you’re bingeing a lot of Netflix? Smoothie for lunch and popcorn for dinner? Reading down that stack of books you’ve been “too busy” to read? Shall I go on?”

Yeah. No! It’s not like that. I have been busy. I mean, I have to water his plants in the greenhouse every day, plus take care of the chickens, plus hand-water all the porch plants, and clean cupboards and shelves, and wash my car and shorten those skirts which, I suddenly realize, have been making me look like a Sister-Wife. Eating tired stuff from the veggie drawer in the fridge. Okay, popcorn once. So far.

And I’ve been having adventures. Like flying to Seattle on a private plane for Will’s graduation, for example. Who does something like that?

Start at the beginning: it’s because of this golf event called The Black Butte Invitational that a group of men have been holding for 40-plus years. Occasionally, over the course of those years, one of the golfers has had to miss because schools just will schedule graduations without regard to other important institutions. But this year was exceptionally special because they’d had to miss the 2020. The Covid Year. And Seattle Prep wasn’t budging.

So how was Larry to be in Seattle Thursday night and in Black Butte on Friday morning? Turns out Tom, Will’s dad, in the event you’ve lost track, has connections to someone with a private plane. Who will allow others to hire the thing. As a favor. Just have to pay the pilot and the cost of the fuel.

“But you really hate to fly. Maybe Larry could just drive all night long and make it?”

That would be so wrong I don’t even have to tell you. Of course I can suck it up and ride in a stupid airplane of some unknown sort with a pilot whom no one has ever heard of. I’m not that lame. Even if my hair was on fire, as Jenny claimed early Thursday morning when I was simply trying to ascertain when I was supposed to be at the Corvallis airport waiting to board.

Here’s a photo of Will and his grandparents, in the Ederer front yard in Seattle.

Okay, wow: Later down the blog, friend Merris tells me that if I use photos which travel by text rather than email they arrive at better resolution. This girl knows her stuff. My blog has just been upgraded — thanks, Merris! Wait til you see her photos!

Here’s a photo of me and the plane, after successfully landing in Corvallis late Thursday evening: Hey! I can’t seem to make this photo move from my iPhone to my desktop, so you get this one in old-fashioned resolution. But that’s okay. You get the idea.

This return trip was made much easier after I learned that Melissa, the pilot, had, as her last gig flying commercial planes, flown Air Busses for Jet Blue. Probably knew how to handle this little puppy just fine.

Larry remained on the plane for a short hop over to Redmond, from where he drove on to Black Butte and was fully rested and on the tee for the start of the tournament Friday morning.

So that was Thursday. On Friday, two friends, Merris Sumrall and Julie Ball, came to visit at the farm. Merris is a passionate birder and wanted to explore the marshes of the Finley Wildlife Refuge just down the road from us. Julie and I were eager to go where she led! As it happens, there’s an auto route through the preserve, and we determined that would be the best way to reach our goals of optimum birding sites. A short walk to the Cheadle Marsh netted us several Egrets and a Bittern, photo courtesy of Merris:

So here are more of her photos, shot at a small viewing hut above McFadden’s Marsh:

Here’s a mother swallow feeding her babes tucked in the rafters of the hut:

Note: Julie also sent me a photo of the hut, but Julie’s camera is an iPhone, Merris’ camera is a CAMERA. Thanks to both of you.

Now it’s Saturday afternoon. While I wouldn’t call this an adventure, exactly, it was certainly a discovery worthy of the name. Marjorie and I had planned to go to the Peoria Farm market for some Oregon strawberries this morning, and find them we did. Along with an astonishing cluster of greenhouses brilliant with rows of bedding and potting flowers. Who needs Shonnards with this just down the road:

Okay, this one showed up from my iPhone . . . strange. But I feel that I have a wonderful new toy going forward.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I do have a stack of unread books to address this afternoon. At the moment, Fleishman is in Trouble, a Book-of-the-Month club selection. And yes, there still is a BOTM Club “Fleishman is an insightful, unsettling, often hilarious exploration of a culture trying to navigate the fault lines of an institution that has proven to be worthy of our great wariness and our great hope.” Whew. Really? The institution, in this case, is marriage. We’ll see.

Maybe I’ll take a nap first. Hmm.

URBAN FARMING

Right. It’s not all about Corvallis. We spent the weekend at the condo in metropolitan Portland doing some urban farming. Despite the best efforts of Susan Suzuki, our realtor, the condo has not sold. (Albeit having come close.) The plants on the “terrace,” meanwhile, have been growing their little potted hearts out. And when, due to an unfortunate lapse in communication on our part, the plants went without water since the last rain storm, we have:

On Thursday of last week, Larry had turned on the irrigation system, checked all the connections, and left with hope that the remaining, alive, plants could recover. And many of them did. But. We couldn’t “show” the condo looking like a somewhat desiccated jungle. Bad enough trying to sell a property in Portland, these days. Boarded shops, on-street camping, riots, national attention to “failed governance?”

So, up to Portland for a weekend of thinning, raking, clipping, and simple removal of the most afflicted pots. Here’s what that looked like:

BEFORE:

AFTER:

Here’s Kate, our amazing, talented, awesome (pick your adjective) gardener, who planted this garden 10 years ago and has taken care of it ever since. Up until we failed to tell her that the purchasers of the condo had taken a hike, and she supposed she was no longer needed at the Crane Building.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, a companion photo:

Work, work work!

The cows have been taken away altogether, and their pastures sprayed. The plan is to kill off the remaining invasive grasses, thistle, and tansy. We’ll let the field lie fallow, then in the fall, disc and harrow, and finally plant native, perennial fescue. Here’s the retro-looking machine that did the spraying:

The nice green field has already begun to turn gold (euphemistically) and gives the landscape an early, autumnal feeling:

Our neighbors seemed to disapprove of this program, but were mollified, I think, to learn that it’s a Fish & Wildlife plan, not a Viehl plan. And don’t worry, the cows will be back, in the lower pastures when Ryan obtains the solar pump to capture water from Muddy Creek.

Jerod Jebousek, director of the Corvallis edition of Fish & Wildlife came by last week to walk through the 13 acres around the house under their direct management. (This means they plan as well as pay for whatever happens there, but they do not own the property.) He determined that there was abundant camas growing here, but as first year plants, will probably not bloom this spring.

Plus many hundreds of white oak saplings. This is hopeful news, trees perhaps to succeed the fallen giants of this past year. (No, of course not in our lifetimes!) He would like to have us scan the area and identify 100 baby trees to protect with either flags or small wire mesh tubes. Whoa. We don’t know where we might find these small wire tubes, but guess that the cows might simply crush them inadvertently if they didn’t knock them over when dining on the fresh green leaves. Small flags would warn the teams of sprayers who will be coming to address the blackberry vines in the area, but would hardly deter the cows. He, Jerod, wants to have the cows in a timely manner because they eat down the weeds before they are able to develop seed heads. So where does that leave us?

Guess Jerod will have to answer that question. Along with privilege comes responsibility. Right?

In closing today I’m posting a photo of the abundant bloom on our little crabapple tree in front of the house. Allen’s bees are drunk in love with these blossoms and you could probably hear the hum all the way up in Portland if you tried:

Happy spring, don’t forget to eat outside, as inside dining has been banned. And remember your mom next Sunday!

APRIL, CONT.

The bees are back. You may remember that our colony of last year suddenly swarmed up and moved on to a better neighborhood. A mystery, and their owner, Allen, doesn’t know where they went. Or why. They just did.

So he had to buy a new queen and her colony, put them in a box, bring them here, and pour them into the beautiful hand-crafted hive under the little oak cluster. This operation had to wait until the cows were moved out of this pasture, as they would otherwise surely rub against and knock over the bee’s home.

“So how do honey bees survived the winter, anyway?” you ask. “Don’t most of them simply die?” Good question. Most do, I learn, but this particular species of bee, apis mellifera, has a strategy which has them huddling together, surviving all winter on the honey they’ve stored and something called bee bread. When extra cold, they shiver as if to fly, but stay stationery and the friction of hundreds of the little creatures warms them all.

“Very cool, but what happens when we’ve stolen their honey?” Right. Apparently the colony produces two to three times the volume of honey they need in order to survive the winter. Bee keepers can thus harvest the excess without compromising the colony. Why, exactly, the bees over-produce I do not know.

Anyway, the cows have been moved away from the pasture near the house and down toward the barn. Much better. While the chickens are cute, rushing to meet me with their funny two-legged waddle, the steers, not so much. They’re not threatening, exactly, just imperious. Entitled. Give us what we want, right now, or we’ll bellow your silly little fence down. (On consideration of their future, okay, carry on?)

When a young child, I wanted to be a cowgirl. I realize now that I didn’t really want anything to do with actual cows. It was all about the horse I longed to have. Me and the purple sage. That didn’t work out, but here I am! Be careful what you wish for! (Don’t misunderstand. I love these ugly, dirty, noisy, bossy animals. At a distance.)

“You’re so lucky, living in the country, with the animals and chores you probably don’t have to go to some gym to get your exercise.” Hahahaha. Good one.

Like the rest of you, who probably had a gym somewhere and a trainer or zumba classes, or tai chi, or yoga, we also had a gym. Up until. For a while we worked out in our garage “gym” outfitted with a few accessories, like a TRX scrappy thing, a couple of benches, some weights, and a treadmill. Going out there on a cold winter’s morning, in between the cars, boots, recycling bins, spare refrigerator? I’m not complaining! Yes, we are lucky, thank you for reminding me. (Jesus.)

But we did it. Sometimes. Then our son Peter suggested that we might like to join him and Allison once a week on Zoom-like training sessions with their personal trainer, Nancy. Why not? It seemed to work, and although Nancy is very, very good, she was simultaneously managing two active Californians and two old Oregonians. Whatever that means. We’d be exhausted for the rest of the day. Then Peter had another bright idea. He works out alone with Nancy on Fridays, and we could join him then, for half-hour sessions. That worked for a time, until Peter was unable to take his Friday one day, and did we want the time, alone, with Nancy? Okay, sure.

We’ve only done it once, but we have seen the future. It is sweet to see our family, briefly, once a week, but seriously. I didn’t think I’d like working out via Zoom, but, I do. (Vik says their grand kid Jordan suggested that they should buy Zoom stock. Don’t know if they did, but, smart kid!) Now I think we’ll never go back to “our” gym, Snap Fitness, even when Covid is a distant, dim memory.

Thank you for coming to my rescue with book recommendations after my little rant last post! Here are two ideas which are exactly what I wanted: Miss Benson’s Beetle, by Rachel Joyce, which Jeanne Ederer (Jenny’s m-in-law) suggested. “Two spirited women, one journey to the edge of the world.” I haven’t read it yet, but Jeanne says she laughed out loud reading it. Perfect.

And: One Long River of Song, by David James Duncan. As he’s an Oregonian, you may have read some of his fiction. But this! OMG. Vik said she actually sobbed while trying to read a bit to Gordon. Vik? Sobbed? You have to pay attention to that. It’s because it’s so heartbreakingly beautiful and profound and and . . . it’s a collection of thought pieces, whew. Try to find both of these books.

And here’s a suggestion of my own: Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m listening to, not reading it, and my suggestion is to follow my example, as the reading is so good. I’m rationing it because I’m addicted. Great writing (duh) and a compelling, amazing story.

Now the sun is shining, I found a frozen chunk of Gumbo in the freezer, so dinner is thawing. I’ll go see if there are any eggs today, and if so, post a photo. Excuse me, be right back.

Three chickens, two eggs. Someone taking the day off, but that’s fine. Go enjoy this nice day, ’cause I’m going to! See ya.

APRIL

Cows lick each other around the head and neck to show affection and help forge strong friendships, a new study reveals.” Or so says Mr. Google. I’ve been wondering! Our boys are, as I mentioned, feisty teen-agers, here without their moms (or certainly their dads). They spend their time grazing, head-butting and shoving, mounting one another, kicking up their heels. But now and then, we’ll see one licking another, both still, mesmerized. Really?

And they talk to us. Last year, with cow/calf pairs, there was a lot of communication, and the vocabulary is surprisingly translatable. “Where are you!” “I’m hungry!” But what do our boys have to say to one another? I don’t know, but if they don’t talk among themselves, they sure do talk to us. Right now, the herd is grazing in two joined pastures , each abutting the driveway. They wander freely, not, so far as we can tell, herded up. When one or several spot us, however, they come rushing up to the fence. The others notice and soon, some 25 cows are jostling and, get this, mooing at us. Plaintively. “We want to be in that other pasture over there where it’s greener. We’re tired of this grass. We’re stuck here and it’s your job to move us!” They’ll follow along as we walk, and they’re noisy!

Here’s one, assessing me, looking picturesque behind the daffodils:

Yes, daffodils! Spring! We walked down through the copse on Wednesday, and were surprised to see all the fawn lilies in bloom under the trees:

The camas lilies are not quite out yet, but here’s an early pilgrim:

Soon the wetland will be covered with blue. Under the ash woods, the trillium are arriving:

Buttercups. And who is this? Any ideas?

You should get your shots and come visit us! But hurry, these wildflowers won’t last long.

What else? The garden, of course. Every living creature is stirring, even this cabbage half, spending the lonely winter in the veg drawer of the back refrigerator. In the dark. Still:

Don’t question my reason for having this moldy thing still in the refrigerator. I didn’t know it was there, okay?

Here’s Larry at his chores:

I’m in a race to use all last year’s squash before the new crops start arriving. I’m not complaining! Well, just a little.

And while I’m complaining: I never imagined a day would come when I would be tired of reading, but here it is. Same goes for listening. I never want to read or hear another story in which there’s a dead body. Three generations of Southern women. A sassy female lawyer, cop, teacher. Anything based in New York City because I don’t get those people. Rich people with a cottage in the Hamptons. I don’t even know exactly where “the Hamptons” are. Anything involving WWII — I mean nothing! Yeah, no, I don’t want something inspiring or intellectual or historical. I want to be entertained. To laugh. Is that so much to ask? Any good ideas?

I’ll tell you a story I just learned about an uncle I never even met: Uncle Buzz. My mom’s brother. Speaking of WWII. So in civilian life he was an elevator engineer for Otis, but some way found himself in the Navy, serving on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. His ship was attacked by a Japanese bomber, with the result of 29 dead. The system which moved the planes from a lower to top deck for takeoff was destroyed, thus disabling the ship’s mission. It was thought that they would have to return to San Francisco, spending at least half a year out of service. But my uncle to the rescue! This is about elevators, after all. He figured out a way to replace the plane’s lift system from one area of the ship to another, and so the ship lived to fight another day. A war hero!

Why didn’t I ever meet this man? Good question. One of the ways my family has been strange and weird, and don’t we all have strange, weird families? Yes, we do.

Now it’s 11:00 a.m. and I have some weeding to do in the driveway, where grass has been determined to migrate from the lawn. Larry sprayed it, but now we just have dead yellow grass in the driveway which shows no sign of blowing away. I know. I should have been doing my job all along and we’d all be free to sit in the sunshine with a good book. A good book. Anybody?

A WEEK IN THE TIME OF COVID

Let’s say it began when my glasses disappeared. I didn’t lose them, they simply slithered off my lap and into the dark regions of Vik’s car. This, while Vik and I were killing time during the construction project down at the barn. Here are the men hard at work:

This is Gordon, viewed front on. Being silly:

And the result:

Sweet! But where were my glasses? After a thorough search of my purse, all jacket pockets, front seat and floor of Vik’s car, I determined that they’d slipped away at the Camas Country Store where we’d been buying a loaf of bread. Fine. Called them. Nope, closed at four. Open next on Tuesday morning.

I limp along with an old pair, circa last century, passing time while the clock slowly rolls along. The ATV broke. My tooth hurts. It rains.

Finally, Tuesday arrives and I phone the store. Something wrong with their phone? Only busy tone, for several hours. In frustration, I persuade Larry that it’s a nice day for a ride. We head for Camas. And now we’re back at the top of this blog.

My glasses are not at the store. Nothing to do but to go home and have lunch, maybe somewhere fun? I’ll have to start over, get a new pair. Yes, they’re prescription. At the intersection of Vogt and Highway 36, we stop to wait for a truck pulling a huge piece of farm machinery. His blinkers indicate a turn onto Vogt, so Larry obligingly moves forward a little and to the right to give him room for his turn.

Ooops. He wasn’t turning. He had all both blinkers on as a caution on the narrow road. Of course he couldn’t stop, and simply sliced off the front of our car.

No one hurt, an incredibly nice young man driving the rig, who helped us peel off the bumper and grate, picked up the glass, kept apologizing as if it were his fault, which of course it wasn’t. Just Larry being thoughtful, and, of course, biting himself in the butt for days after. How many days we don’t know yet, we’ll have to wait and see.

Okay, we can still drive it, have spoken to the insurance company, are waiting to hear from the repair shop. Just have to drive my car for awhile.

Which we did last evening. Because I had an appointment for a root canal this morning in Portland. I know. Ouch! Also the appointment for Covid shot #2 at noon, in Albany. I’d spoken to my pc doc, who said absolutely not. You can’t do both on the same day. So I thought I’d get the tooth fixed, then show up at the Expo for my shot and tell them I needed another appointment for the the second.

Vik called. GORDON FOUND MY GLASSES! They were hiding out in Vik’s car after all. Ha! I can see! I can read!

But the endodontist this morning said no. He thought the shot was more important than the tooth, that there’s a time constraint for shot#2, and it would be difficult to get another appointment, while I can come back and see him next week.

Seriously? Well, okay. Back to Albany. And he was certainly right, as this time the Expo was crowded, unruly, filled with old people who can’t quite move along in a line very well or get the documents all filled out in advance. Tries the patience, these old people.

So we both have our shots, hooray. We decide to just have lunch at home, and are turning into our driveway when:

The cows are back! And we get home to see them unload! Seventeen new yearlings, teen-agers of the bovine world. They’re so funny. Awkward, curious, pretty darn ugly, starting with dirty. Like they care.

They stumble out of the trailer and settle in. Some of them, Scott tells us, might have been here last year. Maybe so. At the moment they’re all having a nap down by the latest fallen tree.

Speaking of fallen trees, three more in the east forty. Here are a couple of candidates for the next to go, plus a rare selfie of your correspondent:

Now Larry has made Cincinnati chile for dinner, smells delicious. We’re tired, took our Tylenol, waiting. Waiting. We’re tough. We think. Will let you know next time. Wondering if I can get an emoji onto the blog. 🧐 Yes!

IN WHICH WE MEET THE LORAX

No, we haven’t gotten our shots yet. Yes, both my sisters, plus all Allison’s California relations and friends are protected. “You have to be proactive,” they tell me, which is good advice, of course.

No, one can’t be vaccinated at the mass event in Reser Stadium without documentation of a place in the chosen hierarchy. “Just stay on the line and an informed respondent will be with you momentarily,” promised the pleasant voice on the Benton County vaccine help line. For an hour. Wait, what does “momentarily” mean?

Terwilliger Plaza, the old folks’ home with whom we’re registered for down- the-line-emergency/ just-in-case lodging when and if we ever sell our condo or one of us falls off the tractor, can’t get the vaccine. Because we’ve decided, apparently, to vaccinate teachers before old folks in this state, this county. I think this is wise, and proactivity can do nothing to alter our place in the queue.

So we wait.

In the meantime, it snowed! I still get a childish jolt of euphoria when I wake to a white wonderland. A girl of the rain-drenched Willamette Valley. Guess the same thrill doesn’t occur to the boy who grew up in Minnesota. I had to beg him to come with me for a walk. These are sheep across the road from us, and a lonely hawk:

But the snow didn’t last a day. I claim that winter isn’t over, which is true, even if winter holds no further guarantees.

The Lorax? Dr. Seuss? Okay, I didn’t quite remember exactly what Seussian figure it is, so had to check with Amazon after this cute little truck showed up at our gate Saturday.

“I speak for the trees,” the Lorax says, “because trees have no tongues and cannot speak for themselves.” A quick trip further into the literature and I learned that a town in California once banned the book in their schools because it portrayed logging adversely, unfairly. Adversely for sure, if not unfairly!

But our Lorax was here to saw up and chip the oak tree that fell by the road last month. All was going well, until. Well, it is mud season and the Lorax got very adversely and unfairly stuck.

The Little Tractor That Could to the rescue. I won’t accuse Larry of enjoying the opportunity to get out the chains, but what man doesn’t like using his toys?

And here’s the result of the job Andy and his crew completed after the equipment was safely parked on the road:

Come the spring, we’ll rent a splitter and haul it over to this sweet pile of firewood. Andrew, Charlie, Will? Come on down/up to the farm for a few days of hard labor and cousinship bonding? The pay’s good.

The drama for Larry continues with the solar panels on the barn. Seems whatever device is meant to be monitoring the power extracted and added to the grid has failed. This has to do, unfortunately, with a computer and modem specific to the job, and Larry has been unable to decipher the instructions he gets from the system’s creators somewhere in Minneapolis. So, neighbors Ted and Patrick to the rescue. These are both engineers of one sort or another, and well-certified for handling this problem. I wish I had crashed the party down at the barn to take photos of the head scratching which went on for a couple of hours before the discovery of a way forward. I’m pretty sure, given these guys, there were not a few laughs. But I waited too long, and we will all just have to use our imaginations.

Today’s challenge has been the attempt to get ourselves subscribed to the local newspaper, the Corvallis Gazette Times. The offices of which in Corvallis are closed. But it’s owned by the Albany Democrat-Herald (where do they get these names?), so we thought to take a road trip over to that city while our cleaning women did their magic here. Only to learn that these offices are also closed, in this case, by the pandemic. But a phone number on the door roused a woman inside who took our info and handed out a copy of today’s edition as well. It feels settled to have an actual newspaper in hand. And think of all we use old newspaper for! No idea if there is a political slant to the news we’ll find on board.

And in the course of the journey, we identified a coffee shop to investigate, come the day. Vik and Gordon tell us about the coffee shops they’ve discovered and patronized in various towns in the area, and this appeals to our sense of travel well executed.

Mitch and his bro-in-law Chance have arrived to have a look at the extension for the chicken run they will build for us. Going to get those birds out of the orchard proper while still allowing for hawk-protected free ranging.

And it’s raining. It’s okay. Water in the well! See you next time.

JANUARY 20,2021

A day when everything changes!

For Andrew — here are the photos I promised of the “great-flood-so-far”:

We walked down the path to the river that morning. Luckily we didn’t do anything stupid like drop a phone in the water, or fall in, but Grandpa said his right boot had a leak and his toes were getting squishy. No help for that, so we walked along Llewellyn back to our driveway. There’s never much traffic along the road, but everyone who passes smiles and waves. This is nice. We don’t know one another, but it feels like we belong here.

We always stop to see if there are eggs, and this day the answer was yes:

Okay, buddy, your turn! The photo of the BMW was an excellent start, but if you’ll send more, I’ll post them here next time. Deal?

It’s been a busy week here at the Wood! After struggling with our hot water system, on the advice of the plumber, we decided to go ahead with a change to reverse-osmosis treatment for the household water. This involved a great new tank in the shed, causing a round of rearrangement where the patio chairs and the Traeger used to spend the winter. I cannot tell you how reverse-osmosis works, but it does allow us to dispense with the Britta filters for drinking water, get hot water to the shower without a five-minute wait, and, we hope, a return to actual white linens from the washing machine.

The next day was the beautiful Wednesday-the-20th. We celebrated with some neighbors, correctly distanced — wait! Does this now go without saying that when we meet anyone we will be correctly distanced? How long, oh Lord, but okay? Anyway, we sat out on their meadow, watched the sun set, toasted the peaceful change of power with some champagne, laughed and told stories. Practically froze, because hey, it is winter and this outdoor gathering stuff, while saving lives, friendships, and sanity all around? Sigh.

Speaking of which, we got a notice that Benton County and Samaritan Health were joining to offer mass vaccination on Reser Stadium field next Tuesday and Wednesday. Didn’t mention how they’d offer the second dose, so I’m not sure if we should jump in. We have an arrangement with Terwilliger to get the shots after they’ve completed the Assisted Living vaccinations, but have no idea when that will be. Kind-of tempting to join the crowd down at the stadium. We’ll see.

Back on the farm, our favorite crew from Peterson Landscaping showed up early Thursday morning to plant three maple trees in the north-facing yard. This is with the idea of providing shade in the hot afternoons on the porch. Side benefits will be to soften the house into the surrounding land, offer birds a stop between the oak copse and the distant standing oaks. Maybe to induce the owls who nightly serenade us to make a home nearby? Those owls sing all night long, and it’s perfect background noise for sleeping.

And on the subject of trees, we’ve been talking with Matt, the county planting contractor, about adding trees to the creekside habitat. At the moment, this habitat consists mostly of spirea, Oregon Grape, wild roses, red alder. He’s coming back next week with the trees he can find in the nurseries. Ash, alder, willow, maple. We thought maybe a couple of dozen, but he says, no, 600, depending. This is courtesy of our grant from Benton County, and wow! Gonna be fun!

Bob Altman, vesper sparrow guy, visited with Jerod Jabousek from Fish and Wildlife to consider planting shrubs in the pasture lands to encourage the nesting of vesper sparrows. These birds apparently like to live among grazing cows, but they do need intermittent bushes to house their nests. In the past, cows haven’t grazed on the F&W land, but we can work with Ryan, cow guy, to pasture them in a timely dance with the wild flowers and birds.

Now it’s Saturday morning. Blue sky, frost on the land, Larry cooking his breakfast, all’s well. See ya next time! Andrew, send those photos!

SO NOW IT’S JANUARY

And how are we celebrating this shiny new year? First, just enjoying the sunshine. But.

Yesterday we spent a day in Portland clearing out the condo in the hoped-for event that the sale goes through. This is tricky. We need to get the personal stuff out of there, yet leave enough “staging” in place, should this sale fall through and we need to start showing it again.

So Larry started in his office. This is a man who keeps the most complete records of every transaction ever effected, and keeps it on hard copy, because who trusts computers? Btw, he is right to suspect computers of evil-doing as experience has demonstrated. Still, that’s a lot of paper. Neatly filed. But where is it going to live in our little farmhouse?

Me? I started with the kitchen. Specifically, the spice drawer. Dear God, what have I been thinking? Never mind, the past is history. We are advised to dispose of our herbs and spices every 12-18 months, or so, but who does that? I piled the lot in boxes and hauled it home to the farm, where all those sister and brother herbs and spices are already — alphabetized, incidentally, and yes, I hear you, Vik — filed in drawers. See, I’m no different from my husband in this respect.

FIRST DRAWER
SECOND DRAWER

Can you relate? Hey! I already dumped 21 redundant bottles. I just counted.

Exciting bird news in the ‘hood. Remember that photo of the colorful bird from last entry? Seems an expert from OSU came to see it and noted that this is the first painted bunting ever sighted in Benton County. Only 10 reported in Oregon since 1963. But he won’t, he says, reveal the location or hundreds of eager birders would descend with binocs and spotting scopes. I’m feeling grateful that this little pioneer didn’t arrive at our bird feeders. Would we have known what we’d seen? Yeah, probably not.

Okay, that was fun. Now, back to work. While Larry’s office is a continent unto itself, the kitchen is a cluster of archipelagos, some of them even French-speaking. Take the pull-out pantry shelves. Half-full packages of pasta in various shapes. Cans of Campbells soups. (Why? Did I bring them to Oregon from Minnesota where they make “hot dish” using Cream of Mushroom or etc.?) Plastic baggies of hull-less barley. Oh! That nearly empty container of wild rice that Gloria gave me once. Damn. I’ve been missing that.

Hey. I just noticed that in that paragraph I managed to use three hyphenated words containing a rhyme. Find them? I’m a regular genius.

But you can’t throw food away. Let’s move on. Allison has offered to help with this project, and I’d be three times a fool if I didn’t accept. But I think I offended her by the suggestion that she identify some items she might want. Paintings? Grandmother Eagleson’s Seth Thomas clock with the wooden gears? The cut-glass pitcher that came over on the Mayflower? (just kidding) But honestly, who wants to pick over her mother-in-law’s dusty artifacts? Not me. I totally get that. However, she can’t be here in any case — Covid, of course.

Meanwhile, Larry and I have been trying to sort out exactly where we will stay in Portland while waiting the three years for our apartment in Terwilliger’s Park View addition to be built.

The present option under consideration is a little re-finished detached garage, fitted out as a tiny apartment. It’s like 284 square feet, but it has a super kitchen tucked in complete with stove-top, oven, microwave, refrig. Tiled bath with walk-in shower. Queen-size bed in, unbelievably, a separate room. After seeing it, we decided maybe not — Larry didn’t think he’d be comfortable there. No cozy chair for reading or putting on your socks. But we’re rethinking it. We’ll have to put a few things in storage while we wait for the Terwilliger apartment, but that’s okay. It’s not like we’re going to spend too much time in Portland. Just need somewhere to sleep and brush our teeth. Why not just stay in a hotel, you ask? That’s the other option. For three years it feels kind-of nice to think we’d have our own space. Where we wouldn’t have to pack every time we came to town.

We’re going to have another look this Sunday, and maybe will make a decision then.

People keep asking if I’ll miss our condo. The answer is yes. Emphatically. But I won’t miss the building, and of late, won’t miss Portland. I’ve lived in or around Portland most of my long life, but something happened, and it got broken. It will recover, but right now, it breaks my heart. And I simply love our “farm.” So thank you for asking!

It’s getting dark. Larry has been outside all afternoon working on the fallen oak tree. Just picking up the pieces, hauling firewood down to the barn, tossing the small branches onto a burn pile. I think he prefers this to filing paperwork!

DECEMBER of 2020

I’ve been trying to find words to express the sight of an oak tree crashing to the ground as we drive by. Just across the fence from us, in real time. And the discovery later, of an even larger giant lying on the ground, torn, mute.

So I’ll begin instead with some human news. Seems, out of nowhere, a couple from San Francisco would like to buy our Portland condo. If I were talking to you, at this point you would say, “well, not ‘out of nowhere.’ Apparently they’re ‘out of San Francisco.’ ” Hahaha, you’re funny.

Anyway, they made an offer, we countered, they accepted, and the earnest money is in the bank. The inspectors have come, haven’t discovered any deal breakers, so the clock is ticking toward Feb. 10, the closing date.

And the fun begins: We knew that one day we would have to sort out the closets, drawers, shelves. Keep all the hundred CDs which no-one ever plays these days? The books? Powells is not buying back books in this time-of-Covid, so it’s off to Good Will or the libraries. I’m surprised at what trails behind me as I move through life. Time to let go. Easily said.

But about the trees. Maybe these photos can express something which I’m struggling to say:

Oregon White Oak in the south pasture. White Oaks can live 500 years. Do trees have souls?

After it fell.

To answer my question, read The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben. “A paradigm-smashing chronicle of joyous entanglement that will make you acknowledge your own entanglement in the ancient and ever-new web of being.”

See, I love this! Beautiful writing about the first great mystery.

When our neighbor, Ted, saw this ancient giant on the ground, his engineer brain took over. “How much to you suppose this thing weighs?” (I had given its weight no thought at all.) “You could take one of those wedges of firewood,” he earnestly began, “and they’re really heavy, right? So you could measure . . .”

Not going to happen. Marjorie, his wife, suggested that the tree looked like a semi lying on its side. Hmm. True, but. At that point, Terri, another neighbor showed up, walking her dogs and the conversation veered to a painted bunting seen at the the Barnes-Stuart bird feeder.

Gorgeous! (Don’t worry about this neighborhood gathering — we were outside, maintaining our 6-foot distances). But the question of the tree and its soul, the ancient web of being, had wandered too far to be reclaimed, and we all found our way home.

And it’s now Christmas Eve. We had tried and failed to see the “Christmas star” last night in a clear and cloudless sky. We’ll try again, but this evening we’ll be listening at 5 0’clock, our time, to the broadcast of Loyola Highschool’s Christmas Eve service. I hope this is filled with music, not so much preaching . . .

Larry has been out attacking the everlasting blackberry brambles along the first creek, running with water now after the dry summer. All the Christmas Eve music in California can’t exceed the lovely sound of running water in a creek. I think.

And if you’re interested, our Christmas day feast will feature Larry’s smoked ribs and a new loaf of his amazing sourdough bread. Not traditional, but we do have those cookies and my fruitcake to bring our meal to its proper conclusion.

Happy holidays one and all, we’ll meet again in 2021!

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

The first sign must have been when Larry came back from FedEx-ing Peter’s birthday present. “Didn’t get your book,” he told me.

“How come? Didn’t they have it?”

“No, when I left FedEx I noticed I was wearing my bedroom slippers. Not going to the book store in my bedroom slippers.” Of course I laughed. You know how fastidious Larry is. He would NEVER. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said.

But I’m not telling anyone. I’m just telling you. And I got what was coming to me. See, we were going to have a nice Sunday dinner, this rainy Wednesday, with roast chicken and et cetera at 1:00-ish. So I was mashing the potatoes and leaned the little hand mixer on the potato pot, reaching for more milk. The mixer leaped off the pot, struck the counter on its way to the floor, thereby turning itself on, and landed with the beaters happily flinging mashed potatoes across the floor, the cabinets, under the island.

Yeah, it was kind of funny, and I should have been more cafeful. But then juices of the nicely-done chicken quietly overflowed the cutting board and trailed onto the counter, onto the floor. Great. We could practically eat our dinner right off the floor, omit the middle man.

The gravy. The whole point. Okay, the roasting pan is stainless steel and therefore functional on our conduction stove-top. I added flour to the glorious brown fond and began to stir. But the stove wouldn’t stay “on.” Kept turning itself “off.” What the heck? Seems the pan is convex on the bottom, its surface thereby not even touching the burner. So we have to transfer the hot mess onto a skillet in order to proceed. No big deal, but still. Sigh.

The chicken was delicious, by the way. Brining. Magic.

Time to do the dishes? Okay, we knew the disposal was broken, plumber scheduled for tomorrow, but we didn’t know that the sink wouldn’t drain. Until we saw the sink swimming with yuck. Really? Is this a joke?

Nope. Have to do the dishes in the laundry room. Which is not so awful, right? And while Larry got to work, I got the bottle of Bono and the floor mop to attack the kitchen floor. I’m walking down the hall when the bottle breaks loose from the spray nozzle by which I’m holding it, crashes to the floor, spraying Bono product across the walls, the front door. By the time I set it upright and find a mop, the damage has been done.

I don’t know. It’s 2020. We should have known.