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. 😎Jane

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?