HOLIDAY

This morning I had such an amazing compliment that, modesty aside, I want to share with you. Larry and I had stopped to get gasoline from the Safeway station on Philomath, and the attendant was a rather older woman, which, you know, makes you feel a little sorry that she has to have this job. But she was good, knew what she was doing, and on completion, stopped at the window to tell us to have a nice day. I’m in the passenger seat, so she took a moment to smile at me, too. “You look just like my grandmother!” she said.

OMG. Seriously? How could anybody that old even have a grandmother at this point? I must look 200 years old. Larry didn’t stop laughing all the way home.

But otherwise, it’s been a nice Independence Day weekend. On Sunday we had a nice, responsible, of course, visit with former neighbors and dear friends, Renee and Dick Edwards. Burgers and macaroni salad and ice cream-with-cookies on their deck — and anyone who knows Dick will be able to imagine how abundant and lush their property is.

Backing up, on Saturday we spend the actual 4th dispatching the flowering heads of a monster patch of thistle in the creek-bed planting north of the driveway. Larry turned off the juice to the electric wire, so we could crawl under the rail fence with boots, clippers, a plastic barrel. There are two types of thistle, Bull, and Canada here. Both non-native to our valley. Note: I have just learned that Canada Thistle is the “March Invasive Weed-of-the-Month.” Well, hat’s off! Larry had previously sprayed, and they were beginning to wilt. But we thought we should behead them before the flowers turned to puff balls and flew away to infest even more territory.

Strangely, the cows came to keep us company, I guess, and they all amiably gathered along the barbed wire and continued to graze. They make a lovely sound while tearing the grass with their tongues. Pastoral.

Backing up again, on Thursday of that week, we’d been invited to follow our neighbors, Marjorie and Ted, out to a surprising little lake near the town of Shedd. No, we’d never heard of Shedd, either. Apparently some time ago a consortium of water-ski enthusiasts had managed to create a bespoke lake along a small river in the middle of the grain fields. Ted is a competition-level skier, and spends many sunny afternoons on the lake with his boat.

This Lake Sabrina is a half-mile long, and a path around the water makes a nice walk and viewing site.

Ted really is amazing. It was quite beautiful to see the balletic way he leaned around the buoys, switching hands to pull the rope as he wove back and forth. His patient wife just takes a book and a folding chair, finds some shade and spends the afternoon reading. Nice.

But Larry and I had to get back home, and driving through Shedd we noticed a sign: “Shedd Cemetery Road. Dead End.” Hahahahahah.

Yes, I’m finally getting back to Amy’s graduation weekend. We looked forward to having the family together, though of course we were unable to add David and Caroline to the guest list. And then, as you know, our Alli tested positive and the Ederers were therefore unable to come. But it was such a pleasure for us to visit with the Lewis family, long-time friends of Peter and Allison, and Amy’s childhood best friend ever, Madelyn. They brought Abby along as well, so the three girls were together for perhaps the last time for long years into their future.

Peter took the boys for a ride around the Wood in the ATV, and to our dismay, Charlie was slammed with an allergic reaction to some of the weeds through which they traveled, and spent the afternoon lying abed with a cool, damp cloth on his fiercely swollen eyes. Sorry about that, Charlie.

And, to complete my narrative, Peter and Andrew had driven to Corvallis earlier to hang out with us. On discovering a tiny frog under the front wheel of my car in the garage, the mission to rescue it began. First, of course, I carefully backed the car away and Andrew took charge of catching it. Nope. It could leap a yard at a time and completely evaded capture. So, we would guide it outside with the broom where it would be on its own?

That kind-of worked and he was on the way to freedom when he made what we think may be a fatal mistake. Hopped under the stone siding. Maybe he would come out if we made a little puddle for him? I can’t tell you if we succeeded because we never saw him again.

So what do you get if you have three grown-up boys, some ancient fire- crackers, and a plague of ground squirrels? Caddy Shack II.

There were lots of suggestions for the solution to the squirrel problem. Larry had been offered the first at Wilco when considering the purchase of a live trap. What do you do if you do catch a squirrel? Drive him out to the woods somewhere and let him out? What if you catch a skunk, instead? “I’ll tell you what I do, the friendly clerk said. “I got three boys and I just have them pee in the holes the squirrels dig. Most fun they have all day while the ammunition lasts.”

I can’t report if this method was tried by the above trio, any or all, because I didn’t witness same, but they were sure laughing.

Okay, what about those firecrackers? Lay one on the hole, light it and back away. Yeah! But what if a guy were to wrap two together? Even better. Wait. I bet we could bundle four or five and light them. Yes, they could.

Luckily the fire power was insufficient to do any real damage to the lawn, or, unfortunately, to the squirrels, but it was loud. Happy Fourth if July!

Tomorrow Larry travels to Eugene to see about a greenhouse for the garden. That could be the only solution that may keep those damn squirrels in their place and out of Larry’s space. Next fall? My family has developed a mantra, oft repeated: “Who knows? We’ll see.” Meaningless and endlessly applicable. Yes, you may borrow it, and God bless.

WORK, WORK, WORK

Before I launch today’s column, I want to let you know that Teo Praslin, Allison’s cousin, came home this past Tuesday after 40 days in the hospital. He’s been suffering with Covid, and though the challenge isn’t behind him, we’re all so grateful that he is well enough to be at home with his family.

So, yeah, work! Spring can be relentless here at the Wood. I had been determined to attack the weeds growing between the rows of creek-side trees and shrubs planted 2 years ago by Benton County’s grant. Couple of problems, the first being access.

The whole idea is to keep the cows away from the seasonal streams that thread across the property, and to provide habitat for the birds and other creatures, like salamanders, frogs, who all work together to keep the stream beds sound and the water pure. To that end, the streams were all fenced with 4-strand barbed wire and, where facing the pastures, hot wire as well. This sure keeps the cows out, but the people, too.

So in the course of the two years since planting, here’s what we have:

This is the north view across the post fence from the driveway. Hard to tell, but there are rows of young trees among the tall weeds.

On the south side of the road, I’ve been able to squeeze through the “man gate” and have Larry hand me my already started weed-whacker (technical name). Yes, I know, why don’t I start the thing myself? People. It’s one of those chain-pull things where you have to be at least 6 feet tall and own biceps in order to engage the motor. Stupid. Why not a turn key, or button? Nope.

Anyway, to continue, I’ve spent the last few mornings and afternoons achieving this much:

But then the job extends a quarter of a mile up away from the gate thing, so I resolved to get across that damned fence closer to the area of work. Larry’s good idea:

As you can imagine, it’s a little dicey to climb up and over this “stile” but it does work. And at this point, Larry has joined me in the labor. We drive the ATV up, hand the machines across, the gas can, the harnesses, and carefully cross the ladder.

Except. Larry’s machine is awesome, cuts a huge swath with each sweep of his arms. Bugger this. Why am I working so hard with my little toy? Turns out his machine is a “brush cutter” not just some back yard weed-whacker. I can’t just borrow the big machine — you need to be at least 6-feet tall (again), or hold it out at such an angle that the weight would be impossible. Did that make sense? Well, just accept that I can’t manage the thing. Luckily, Larry has sort-of gotten into it, and so even though it’s “my” project, I now least have the right man for the job.

While up here in the north forty (actually, south forty), we are close to the watering tank for the adjoining pasture. The cows have become very interested in us, and gather along the fence, mooing earnestly. It’s quite frustrating, because I know exactly what they’re saying and they apparently don’t return the favor. No, my darlings, we can’t take you to another pasture. You will have to wait for Ryan.

But we make the unfortunate discovery that the water tank is leaking. Somehow the float device has become turned sideways and has not turned off the water from the well. This is really bad, so Larry gets busy trying to discover the problem and to fix it.

As you can see, the water is nasty, slimy, and though we’ve been told that the cows don’t care, we decided to adopt the remedy Ryan has suggested and buy goldfish to clean up the algae. Off to PetCo which, being in our nice safe county, is open for business, and stocks the fish. Larry opts to buy to 25c/per rather than 15c/per fish. Uncharacteristic for the treasurer of this family, so I assume he is determined that this shall succeed.

Fun sidebar: at ZoomChicks that afternoon, I tell my friends about this episode in farm life. They can’t believe that the goldfish will be up to the job, but nevertheless offer the good suggestion that, if determined to go ahead, we let the plastic bag with the fish float in the tank long enough to balance the temperature of the water before releasing the fish. Vik suggests in her laconic way that I simply do as Ryan says and ignore further advice.

Later, I get an email from Sidney with a link explaining how the little fish do, indeed, work to clean cattle troughs. It’s always good to have friends!

On to the main subject: work. Last week I explained how Larry was trying to build a structure that would protect his precious lettuce plants. Here we have the result of that job:

This should work nicely. You can’t see from the photo, but he has arranged a pulley system to raise and lower the front wire to allow the eventual lettuce harvest. Observation: This sort of thing would be far better if the craftsman in question had a shed-full of appropriate tools. Honestly, most of what we do here can be characterized as amateur fumbling to accommodate missing skills and tools.

I showed you the photo last week of the bird nest by our front door. Momma Robin has been sitting on the nest without rest for the last two days. She’s working, too. At the moment, she’s standing on the edge of the nest chirping. For her husband to bring some groceries? We locked the door so that we don’t forget and disturb her. Soon I should be able to get photos of the fledglings, should she succeed in hatching her brood.

We’re taking a break from all this farm stuff and leaving for a weekend at Black Butte. I believe that we have nothing at all to eat over there, so am packing some survival goods like last night’s leftovers and cream for the morning coffee. The chickens will be left behind to fend for themselves, and the cows as well. See you when we get back!

RHUBARB SEASON

Several years ago, Charlie Clark gave Larry some rhubarb starts from his garden in Olympia Washington. A simple thing. Larry claims that he and his brother loved to pick specimens from their dad’s garden in St. Paul, wave the great leaves at each other in mortal combat, then chew on the stalks until gone.

You can’t eat rhubarb stalks like that, I protest, but he sticks to the story. Little boys, it seems, will eat anything. So he planted Charlie’s starts in a modest corner of the orchard and sat back to wait. He did not count on our chickens’ appetite for the worms and grubs that thrive under those great leaves. Or their pleasure, perhaps, in the shade the leaves offer on a hot spring afternoon.

Whichever, it became a case of man vs. chicken. While the birds never seemed to peck at the fruit/vegetable itself, wait. Excuse me a moment while I consult Google to learn the taxonomy of this plant. Okay, got it. In 1947 a New York court declared rhubarb a fruit, as that is the way the plant is most often prepared. Why did it become an issue for the courts? Something to do with taxes, my source explains. I’m comfortable with this decision.

Anyway, our chickens would scratch at the soil until the root base of the plant was exposed. Larry began the defensive system with a simple row of iron gates we had stockpiled in the barn from a former project, and this worked for a time, until Rhody remembered that she is a bird and could fly. We would hear Toast complaining as she paced back and forth along the barrier, apparently unable to make the intellectual leap that she, too, is a chicken and has wings.

Larry refortified the cage with a gate on top to serve as a lid. Rhody found a narrow opening through which she could slip. Larry added more ironwork, until this is what we have:

Yes, it looks a little messy, but finally:

Enough for one batch of rhubarb crisp. And this is just the first harvest.

Last Friday, Larry had arranged for service on his car at the Lexus dealership in Eugene. He prepared to leave at 6:45 that morning to arrive for his 7:45 appointment. As he would not be allowed to wait in the service area for the work, he planned to take a folding chair and a book, and to spend the hour reading in the parking lot. Masked, of course.

But as he dressed and brushed his teeth, I became a little envious of the outing this would provide. We’ve been sheltered quite a while now, and the trip to a car dealership actually sounded inviting. I would follow him down in my little car, and we could spend the hour shopping at the Eugene Whole Foods! As it happens, they allow old people to begin shopping there at 8:00, and they didn’t even ask to see our identification. Just another barb that must be endured as we age.

The phone call we awaited to say the car was ready told us instead that it would be another 2 hours. What! Good thing I’d come along, huh? We decided to spend the time at the Camas Mill and Bakery, just a short hop up 99, where we’ve enjoyed looking at their artisan bread flours. There we found some gorgeous rhubarb/berry turnovers which we could have for breakfast. The baker himself was there, and when I asked about the rhubarb, he said it had come from his freezer.

So how do you freeze it, I asked. I, myself, just chop it up and toss the chunks in a bag. No, he said, roast it first. Wow. I chop it, he explained, toss it with a little sugar, and roast it just until it has exuded its juice and caramelized a bit. Then I scrape the fruit (he actually called it fruit, very well informed) and the juice into bags and freeze them.

But the chickens are not the only predators we have to contend with. We are not alone here on this one hundred acres. Look at this:

The remains of our spring lettuce crop. It’s not the chickens this time. But who? Ah, unfortunately, while Larry’s cage prevents anyone from attacking by the orchard route, what about from outside the orchard? Larry has diagnosed ground squirrels, and yes, there are a lot of them about. So he envisions a cage apparatus he will construct out of left-over shelf scraps and chicken wire. But first, he has to plant the big garden before the promised rain of next week:

How will he keep the ground squirrels out of this patch? Good question. He no longer has his shotgun. We don’t have a dog. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Every morning for the last three days, I’ve gone out the front door and been greeted with a mess of dried grass, moss and sundry debris, courtesy of some bird who wishes to nest on the lights just aside the door. Not a good plan, I tell the bird who scolds me, a robin I think, though I can’t see her. I clean the mess. I arrange the spike apparatus which is supposed to keep birds from squatting on various ledges under the eaves and by the fireplace.

The next morning, there is the nest materiel again. I clean it again, replace the spikes, tying them in place this time with tape. That should do it.

Well, no. This is one determined mother bird:

This is what I find the next morning. See how cleverly she’s used my spikes as the warp to her woofs. I can’t destroy this work of art, so we will just have to live with the bird poopage this year, until her babes have flown away in the fulness of summer. Yes, I looked up warp and woof . . . funny words, but weavers know what to make of them.

I wish I had a photo of the gray fox who hunts the field in front of the house some evenings. She’s beautiful. Of maybe it’s a male. Can’t tell from the distance, as she’s (so I think) not much taller than the Roemers Blue Fescue that is thriving now in the Fish and Wildlife acres.

The grass is lovely in the late evening sunlight, a native plant that will, it’s hoped, be able to out-compete alien, invasive, evil Astoria Bent Grass.

In closing today, I have an announcement: Our county, Benton County, has received permission from the governor of Oregon, to begin reopening restaurants and businesses, albeit within guidelines, tomorrow. What will that look like? Will we be able to finally get those haircuts? Is this dangerous? Evidently Kate believes in us!

ANOTHER MONDAY

Some days are more interesting than others — take Monday, for instance. We looked out and saw our new shed, towed behind Andy’s South River truck, moving up the driveway. We’d seen nothing of the building, just a list of dimensions and choice of color. But it’s so cute!

This photo is out of order, but my phone had, of course, run out of juice just as it arrived, and I wanted you to see it before we move on. I know, we didn’t get it for its visual appeal, and both Andy and Larry looked bemused at my enthusiasm. It is so cute!

We wondered how Andy could move the thing to its landing spot behind the orchard (see last blog) without a crew of piano-movers or similar. But engineering saved the day.

It won’t stay this clean and perfect for long, but before we can start moving stuff over, we have to have a ramp. Larry’s on it, planning materials, tools, shopping, happy to have a shiny new project that doesn’t involve dirt, weeds, chickens or cows.

Off to Google, because maybe one could purchase a ramp? What fun would that be? We found a YouTube site called “build your own ramp.” Perfect. This woman, April Wilkerson, is awesome. Thirty-something, got tools, whips together a ramp in a couple of hours, after first dislodging heavy rocks, sawing down the overhang on the shed doors, placing cement support blocks, whistling Dixie for all I know. And her next post offers ways to optimize storage inside the ramp for, for example, her motorcycles. Wow! Do not mess with April.

And speaking of cows, no sooner had we put away the lunch dishes than we noticed a cow uproar, again. This time, caused no doubt, by Scott’s truck. He marched through the — what shall we call it? the middle pasture? — to check on the watering tank. The cows know what’s up and gather, mooing to their children, by the barn gates:

A cattle drive for our afternoon entertainment!

But something is wrong. There’s no current in the hot wire along this new pasture. Jake has to find the interruption and, no surprise, it was found at the place where a post had been moved to accommodate the new shed’s arrival. A cowboy wears many hats!

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to go through the torture of trying to edit this image. I believe I now understand that I must always shoot photos horizontally if intended for the blog. God. So annoying.

Anyway, in conversation with Scott while this was going on, we learned that he had been director of the Eugene and Corvallis livestock auctions for many years. And in fact, when the Great Quarantine has lifted, we should come on down for the show. Cattle, horses, goats, not sure what else. But they have a cafeteria, great food, and lots of action. Why ever not? You want to come with us?

Just a note from the kitchen. At David’s suggestion, on hearing that I meant to expand my repertory, here we have our first tofu fingers:

That’s slow cooked broccoli and coconut-lime rice on the side. Verdict? Edible, but I won’t bother you with the recipe. Tonight we’re going to support a local restaurant by ordering take-out. Yes, that was a sigh of relief you heard. From both of us!

I want to leave you with a word of love and hope for Teo Praslin, Allison’s cousin, who is fighting for his life today in Huntington Hospital. He’s been a physician’s assistant for twenty years, and in the course of his work, contracted Covid. We owe him and his colleagues so much. Get well, Teo.

LIFE GOES ON ANYWAY

Busy around here this week. Starting Monday morning with a call from a neighbor: Your cows are stampeding!

Right. And what are we supposed to do about that? I looked it up later. Apparently one is supposed to ride alongside them — stop right there. Ride what alongside them? These momma cows weigh about 1200 pounds each, they’re protective, they’re lactating, which provides a somewhat cumbrous gait but does not slow them down, and they are on their own.

Whatever caused the ruckus, by the time Larry got down the road on the ATV, they had all stopped running, reorganized themselves, and resumed grazing. Just a thought: maybe the neighbor shouldn’t walk her dog in that pasture?

At around nine o’clock, Andy from South Shore Structures arrived with a back hoe on board. He was here to clear the site for our new shed being built for placement behind the orchard. Looks kind-of tiny!

He came back later in the morning with a truckload of rock for the foundation. Which he carted by the wheelbarrow-full across the new sod under the homestead tree. Much appreciated. Apparently the completed shed itself will be delivered Monday next. I guess that agricultural infrastructure is permitted under the Corvid closures, though I didn’t think to ask. I do know that Andy is glad to be able to work.

Tyson Whitehead’s crew drove up next, well masked and gloved, to begin work on bringing our internet capacity up to speed. We’ve had line-of-site from a company tower 75 miles away, one click better than dial-up. Honestly, I wouldn’t care — and we would not have begun this project under present circumstances, but Tyson is persuasive, and the equipment had been secured, was good to go. Computer work, he says, also exempted from the closure.

For the next two days, these guys camped out in the garage closet, squeezed through the crawlspace under the house, trenched through the lawn, put up a disk, showed us how to finally use our Sonos speakers. It’s strange to think that we know them only from their eyes above the masks, and when Sam, the tree-trimmer rang the doorbell, we thought it was Owen from Tyson’s crew. Both tall, dark-haired, masked men?

So what was Sam doing here? We’d called on him earlier to prune our new maple trees, and he’d explained that he’d closed up shop and couldn’t help. So what changed? Bored, he said, and ours was a job he could do by himself. Plus, he, no surprise, needs the work. I do not know what rule might apply to him, but if house cleaning crews are allowed, so might tree pruning be?

And speaking of house-cleaning crews, mine phoned to say they were ready to work, but I asked them to wait another two weeks, and see where we are. Meanwhile, I’ve had opportunity to remember life as it used to be, before I ever had anyone else clean my house. I can do this, I tell myself. Of course I can, but I had forgotten to clean the guest bathroom, used by all those guys the last couple of days, and ugh. That was a shocking wake-up.

Guess you didn’t need to know that. Okay, so I’ve spent this morning trying to make masks for Larry and me. Should be easy. I know how to sew, have my machine. I even have some nice white fabric backing from some older project, a pack of elastic — stuff I’d hauled down here from my “office” in Portland because what else would I do with it. Three hours later. Much humbled, I produced one mask. But it’s a prototype and now I’m good to go tomorrow. We do have commercial masks we’ve been using, just so you’ll know, but I thought it would be a fun project. Ha.

Escaping outside, I sanded the picnic table and benches which had spent the winter outside, unprotected. With an electric sander, of course. We plan to bring our hand-painted tile table, secured on a long-ago trip to Florence, to the patio here when/if our condo sells. But the sale looks to be a long time coming, so this summer we’ll enjoy our tired old wooden furniture again and count ourselves lucky on days like this when the sun shines and the birds sing.

Ten thirty and time for bed! Sleep tight!

MARCH 31

Why all the cow photos? I need to know how to manage my blog, so this is a learning experience for us all. The first photo, taken with the camera held vertically, transferred to the blog laterally. I went through the process of editing, and by some indulgence of the gods, succeeded in setting these cows on their feet.

The second photo, with camera held vertically came through as per, no editing necessary. Huh?

The third photo, taken this morning on my walk down the road, held horizontally, also came through as per. I do not get this!

I see I’m boring you. But I do have a story. Yesterday, Larry and I decided to walk down the road after lunch to get fresh air. When we topped the first hill, we saw the cattle truck parked down by the barn, and picked up the pace. We hoped the two guys we saw were here to collect Cow 15, pictured above, who’d been reported to be limping.

I wish you could see the choreography of the two men on their ATVs as they cut them out of the herd. Those things race across the pasture’s bumps and heaves fast enough to launch them airborne, you’d think. Not as picturesque as cowboys on horseback, I guess, but pretty entertaining anyway.

The cows understand the game and cow pandemonium ensues. I love this! It doesn’t take long for Jake and Scott to get Number 15 and her baby in the gates by the barn. Not, as the expression has it, their first rodeo.

The dance of the gates is interesting, too. I hadn’t paid enough attention to understand that there’s a series of gates which swing open and back to contain the chosen animals. Only thing missing in this show was a good ranch dog.

Jake and Scott are perfect in the roles — pretty beat-up old guys, don’t look much better than the truck they came in. Funny, nice. You’d like to hear their stories, or I would.

Back in the house, I looked up “foot rot,” the field diagnosis for the lame animal. Whoa. This is not a visual I’d recommend for the casual passerby. No wonder she was limping. The article referred to the “toes”. Strange. A cloven hoof, yes, but one doesn’t think of the component features as toes. Cow 15 and baby will be taken back to the barn for treatment, and I don’t know if they’ll be back here.

When I saw the rest of the herd this morning I wondered what, if anything, the animals make of all this. We seem to have two separate herds, with the ones I photographed all the Black Angus. I think. I asked Jake about this earlier, and he said all these animals had been in the same barn when calving. ( I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t say they were “friends.”) A couple of days ago I saw two adults rubbing noses, and earlier, have seem them licking one another. Obviously they have some connection.

See how far social isolation can take you? You have time to ponder cow existential questions. Larry’s back home with the news that Simply Mac cannot resolve his computer problem. His 10-year old computer. This probably won’t end well, so let’s go have lunch.

STILL MARCH, CONT.

Well that was silly. I’m never going to France, so why would I spend any time learning French? I’m not that bored. So, no. Forget I said it.

Our herd of cows has multiplied again. Enjoying our morning coffee yesterday, our attention was drawn to the now-larger cow/calf herd barreling down the upper pasture northward to the barn. Huh? So Ryan or Jake must have been driving them, but when did all those new cows arrive and how did we miss them? Forty in all, my neighbor, who counts them, tells me. Larry took the ATV down to the barn to investigate, fearing that there had been a mass breakout from the barn pasture. But no, the gate separating the fields was closed, so there must have been human intervention in the move. Apparently it isn’t important to keep us informed, so we shrugged and came back to have breakfast.

Late that afternoon we got a call from Allen, who was picking up his bees in Eugene and would be here to install them by 6:30 Here’s what that looked like:

Okay I hate Word Press! It allowed me to edit the first photo but not the next. Does anyone out there know how to navigate Word Press? No wait. I can’t have a temper tantrum about my blog right now. Sorry.

So here’s the hive Allen made. Gorgeous, huh? There will be some thousands of bees and one queen, whom you can pick out in the photo directly above. I know, it would be easier if it weren’t sideways on the page. Grrr. Allen will be tending them, bringing sugar water to feed the “brood” who are maturing inside the cells you also see above. Interesting stuff! He doesn’t plan to sell the honey, but says we can have all we can ever use. Nice.

This morning we looked up from our morning coffee again and saw two wild turkeys in the yard. The male was puffed up, tail feathers spread open like a peacock (I didn’t know they did that) while the object, apparently, of his affection simply ignored the show. The display not enough, he began to sing his gobbling song, also to no avail. She kept her head down and meandered out of the yard into the pasture. Last seen, the poor fellow had crawled under the fence to join her, whereupon he adjusted his marvelous tail feathers and kept dancing and singing. Our neighbors tell us wild turkeys are a scourge and I believe them, but this grey morning we were glad of their company.

That’s all the livestock news for the day. I will tell you that I Googled the first plant from Integrated Resource Mgmt. list as per my set of intentions. Piper Willow and Sitka Willow. Both native, stream-bed shrubs which like to grow where their feet are wet. So that’s a start. Au revoir!

STILL MARCH

Okay, this is not about the virus. You can go ahead and read it. Just a story of two simple, old people grappling with life on a farm. Supposed to be funny, and I depend on Larry to provide material. He’s really good at it.

Last night I overheard him tell someone the phone: “no, we’re not doing much. Just hanging out. Reading.”

This from a man who spent the morning stringing wire between posts of the rail fence in order to prevent the new baby calves from wandering out onto Llewellyn. See, on Tuesday night a calf was found wandering on the road. A passing motorist and a neighbor managed to get the calf back behind the fence, and called our neighbor Terri, who called us. Who called Ryan, who didn’t answer. So, we’re it. And it’s raining. We’re not experienced at stringing wire, of using a “come-along” to tighten the wire. But we managed to string enough so that any calf who escaped up- stream from this work would still be confined to our property by the entry gates.

This from a man who weeded the daffodil bed in front of the orchard. Who planted 50 onion sets and 30 lettuce and cabbage plants, in the rain. Who cleaned the chicken coop.

See how funny he is?

This morning we decided to walk down the road in lieu of working out in our garage gym, and were surprised to see that our herd had doubled overnight. How did we fail to notice? And then there he was, a black calf wandering along our driveway. Oh man. If he turned left when he ran from us, we’d have a chance of getting him back behind the fence where his mother was mooing at him. If he turned right, he’d be out in the field where we’d never corner him.

Luckily, he went left, but in his haste to get away from us, struggled through the 2nd and 3rd strands of barbed wire governing that section. Ouch! We counted the newcomers and find we now have 28 animals:

Down at the barn we found a guy from Integrated Recourse Management, here to plant trees and shrubs along the creeks. His company is hired by Benton County, and he planned to plant 950 stems over two days. Wow! We had significant loss over the winter from the 6600 planted last year, so this was welcome news. I took a photo of his list, for my own benefit because I want to learn these plants. I’ll talk about this later.

Larry wanted to finish up his work load for the day (cleaning the gutters!) and then go play golf over at the school course. Alas, they’re closed, of course. If only he had listened to Charlie and built a couple of golf holes on the property. With golf off the table, he decided to go burn the 5 piles of slash down in the north east corner by the road, which we’d generated last fall from a tree fallen across the fence:

A reasonable exchange of entertainment. Who doesn’t like a good fire?

What I wanted to say about the plant list: I’ve been counseling myself that this is a great time to work on the many self-improvement projects that have lined up:

  1. Practice my 5-string and memorize a set-list against the improbable day when someone asks me to play something.
  2. Practice my piano and learn some credible songs. I don’t care if anyone asks me to play because who would?
  3. crank up my Pimsleur French tapes and spend a specific amount of time each day at this.
  4. keep studying Africa.
  5. And look up, study and learn the plants on the list I mentioned. I could make a folder of them, then check on their progress through the year.

If any of you would like to choose one of the above and take it off my back, it would be a big help. Because, remember, I have to clean my own house now, cook three meals a day, help Larry with fence, burning, planting, and other farm-related chores.

Keep in touch. Write to me! I’d love to hear from anyone who reads this — I don’t know how you leave a comment on the blog, but you can always reach me at janeviehl@mac.com

MARCH

Came in like a lion? Well, yeah, but I have nothing to add to all that has been said about our situation this March, so will simply go on to describe life at our farm.

I was walking up the driveway on Wednesday, noticed this truck backing up. We already had 5 new cow/calf pairs in the pasture, but apparently more were on the way and I was going to get to watch them unload.

I asked Jake, the driver, how old this baby is, thinking a couple of weeks. Nope, born yesterday. Seriously!

Here’s Momma, with another baby right behind. Mom’s a little behind on her hygiene, or maybe dirt happens when you’re riding in a cattle truck, but you’ll get an idea of how tiny the babies are.

They’re at home now in the pasture directly around the barn, where our wild daffodils are, at the moment, in bloom.

The weather is so gorgeous just now — low thirties at night, sixty in the afternoon. Too bad most of my chores take place inside. Yes, we did pay them anyway, but our cleaning ladies are on hold for awhile. I hope they’re enjoying this time off, despite everything.

But with all the fruit trees in bloom, the birds making nests, it’s clear that Mother Nature is simply ignoring the virus and bringing spring anyway. Thank you!

A story: our dear friends Ursel and Epi Scheffler, with whom we sailed the Baltic in 2018, sent us a note with a photo from Brazil where our same ship is touring South America. A later note informed us that the ship was experiencing the familiar cruise-line misfortune, at anchor outside Manaus, Brazil, with passengers unable to disembark. Even though no-one on board has tested positive for corona, the Brazilian government deemed them too dangerous to allow them to travel to the airport for their flights back to Germany. So they will now be sailing across the Atlantic, hoping to find a welcome harbor in Hamburg. Quite an adventure, one I’m amazingly grateful that I don’t share!

Another story, this one funny, has our friend Dick Edwards in his garden planting his onion sets. With his knee replacements, he was doing the job sitting on a bench or stool, tipped over backwards, twice, and reflected on how silly an old man can be. Our resident old man immediately took this as inspiration, and spent the day yesterday preparing the garden for his onion sets.

Today he’s similarly employed creating a screened planting bed for the cabbage and lettuce sets he acquired. This involves plastic tubing, some orchard netting, some boards and staples. This to keep the chickens from treating the new plants as their banquet. They’ve gotten very clever about flying over the gates we’d used last year. I’d show you a photo, but the time lapse between camera and computer mandates that it’s not possible. In any case, a good project to fend off the boredom of quarantine.

Tomorrow the folks from Benton County are supposed to come to add some 600 new trees and shrubs to the stream-side enclosures. The original planting of 6000 experienced a pretty big failure, so we’re hoping for better success with these. Also on the calendar for next week is the arrival of some bee hives, to be managed by Allen, who, you may remember, worked on the landscape. Should be fun.

A note from a vesper-sparrow research team asked if we’d allow them to set up a station on our property with the goal of establishing a colony here. This involves a play-back recording to lure the birds here, and periodic visits from the team to check. As the song of this bird is lovely, hence its name, we of course agreed.

This day has somehow slipped into lunch time. I’ll go check on the garden project, wish you all well, harboring at place in your homes. I hope you can find a way to enjoy this glorious sunshine, though it probably doesn’t include baby calves and intransigent chickens 🙂

NOT YET SPRING

Hey, where you been?

Yeah, I don’t know. Hibernating? On sabbatical? Daylight Savings tomorrow, by the way. It doesn’t look like spring out there, but cheer up!

So, moles are a good place to start today. I mean the moles that live in one’s nice newly-planted grass. Just Googled them, and while I couldn’t get a photo to share with you, they’re just little brown furry creatures, and don’t go thinking they’re cute. Here’s what he/they/it is/are doing to our lawn:

Those little flags indicate the place where our hired expert has placed traps. As we see, the mole is laughing at him. Yesterday Larry gave up and dumped poison down the newer holes, and yet another mound has appeared this morning. Back in the day he would have parked in a folding chair with his shotgun and waited. He didn’t think he’d need the gun when we moved to the city, and so gave it away. Bad decision?

Almost kind-of funny, man here on top of the food chain defeated by this wretched little pest. What he could be finding to eat that’s so delicious in our underlying pottery-grade clay is a mystery, but here we are.

This morning, Larry and Mitchell, our “hand,” are out cleaning up the remaining downed oak — the one that crushed the iron gate earlier this winter. Ryan, Cow Guy, says he’ll be bringing some cow-calf pairs onto the property in a week or so, which has inspired the lumberjack operation currently in progress. We don’t have skills or equipment to fix or replace the gate, so will have to turn that job over to Ryan’s crew.

Mitch is determined to burn the accompanying slash pile, but I’m not seeing any plumes of smoke. The county informs us of the dates and hours on which we are allowed to burn, and today’s the day. Not exactly raining, but the air is heavy with sweet Willamette Valley mist. Good luck, Mitch!

The Fish and Wildlife people have been busy spraying the 13 acres they’ve devoted to wild flowers. This means a flotilla of ATVs with boom sprays criss-cross in front and back of the house. I wish they didn’t have to use chemicals — kind-of not the point here, but we have to defer to their knowledge.

Meanwhile, Benton County sent a couple of crews to spray the trees and shrubs they planted along the stream beds. Well, I mean the weeds between the trees and shrubs. So, more spray. Damn. I recently had to complete a health survey (having to do with the fact that my doctor seems to think I’m old or something) and: am I exposed to agricultural poisons? Heck yes. (Do I have small area rugs in my home, etc., she just wants to keep me safe. Bless her heart.) With all this agricultural poison going around, what’s up with that mole?

Okay, the global pandemic. Are we over-reacting, or just being careful? California has declared a state of emergency — what does that mean? Are we going to be able to make our trip to Palm Springs with Tom and Dorsey next week? And why do people think that toilet paper is the one indispensable commodity to stockpile? The jokes have started showing up, so I guess that’s a good sign.

Larry has just returned from the back forty, and we’re heading out to stockpile some groceries for the weekend. Hope I don’t regret taking the virus lightly. You all be safe now, and I’ll see you next time.