You’d have to know Tommy, which you probably don’t, but when he says “Dude, I’ve got a truck out in the parking lot I’m trying to get rid of,” you should not be expecting to see some Datsun mini on the tarmac. Tommy is the king of boy-toys, and he’s earned every front-end loader, grader, boom-truck, D6-dozer parked out on his John Day ranch. (Plus he and his gorgeous wife hike the entire Compostela de Santiago every other other month or so. I’m just sayin’) No, you should be expecting a monster crew-cab Chev diesel, ’02 or ’03, doesn’t know for sure, a hundred seventy-seven thousand on the odometer. Can’t give it away to his kids. Does Larry want to buy it?

OMG. Does Larry want to buy it? Should be able to haul a lot of oak in a behemoth like that. Should command a little respect next time we pull into a equipment store and say we want to look at a weed-whacker.

So Larry has all the patience in the world when I want to go shopping for kitchen sinks. Rod (the architect, in case you’ve forgotten) says it will be helpful to his planning the interior if he has details which will indicate our thinking. And sure enough, I do find a sink I like. It is, of course, ridiculously expensive, so new that it doesn’t yet appear on the manufacturer’s web site, so details are hard to come by. But they have it in stock! The problem I’m finding, though, is locating fixtures for said sink that aren’t farm-housey, homey-cutsey, Vermont Country Store-esque.

Good news: our neighbor-to-be, Kristin, says sure! Of course we can extend the power easement from the box on their property to our property. Really, really nice. So we can check that box on the important-stuff-to-do list.

Haven’t heard from the water quality test folks re our well, so that box remains unchecked.

And the cows are coming back! Did I write that last time? Nope, just checked. Well, Mark, Cow Guy, wants to meet with us the first week in January to outline the areas he will fence. I wanted to be on site when the animals are unloaded, but I’m afraid we’ll have to miss the event, as we’ll be in San Diego at Band Camp on the proposed date. Dang! Gordon suggested that maybe we could Skype the arrival. Sure. Mark should be happy to oblige.

Last time down, I got the idea that I’d like to consider the organ which is rotting away in the old house. Maybe it’s a wonderful instrument that just needs to be cleaned up a bit. Hmm. What do you think?


So I’m missing the land. Shopping for sinks just isn’t that much fun. But I got a bad cold and a stupid case of bursitis or whatever, so we didn’t go to Black Butte as planned, with a stop-over at the farm. Going up to Seattle for New Years, and there I’m going to revisit the country- home books I’ve stockpiled with, I hope, more focussed attention on details like kitchen sink faucets. I wish I could show you the adorable return address labels from Allison with a little farm house and a barrel of peaches. See, it’s really going to happen. Christmas, 2015. The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.


When we meet someone farm-related, Larry seems to be most comfortable asserting that he’s a “city boy,” which is somewhat different from a “city slicker,” though that may be what the new acquaintance hears. Not me. I’m always looking for a way to slip in my rural bona fides. “Grew up in the country,” I’ll say. “Chickens, milk cow . . .” Let them imagine the rest. “Odd,” I can hear them thinking. “Them boots of hers don’t look like they been any closer to a barn than the nearest Ralph Loren outlet.”

But it’s true. Although I didn’t exactly live on a farmed farm, if that makes sense. In any case, it’s strange that Larry knew what a turnbuckle is and I did not. A turnbuckle is, for any of you other urban folks, a lovely device used to tighten fence out on the range. In our case, to repair the sagging gate across the driveway. Larry proceeded to invent and execute the solution with some cable, a couple of clamps, and the turnbuckle.


I like the word. It would make a good nom de plume, should I ever want one. Jane Turnbuckle. Of Turnbuckle Farms. I believe I’ll make some blueberry turnbuckle for dessert. Okay, I’ll stop.

We had another mission on Saturday, when we were last at our un-farmed farm, which was to approach the neighbor to the south with the hope of securing her permission to extend the power easement from the corner of her property onto ours. This would save us who knows how many thousands (I exaggerate, of course) of dollars of trenching and laying cable from Llewellyn. We found this to be a difficult task, for some reason. So we put it off. Had our sandwiches up at the top, watched a bald eagle fly directly overhead, then mustered our courage and drove to her home on Nicole Road. Don’t have her phone number, which must be a cell as there’s none listed in any directory.

But no one answered the door. Both vehicles in the driveway, garage open. But? I’d brought a little jar of blackberry jelly from this summer’s crop as a neighborly greeting, which, in her absence, I propped against the garage door with a note asking her to phone us. So far, nothing. Frustration!

We wanted to check on the creek, so drove back onto the lower property, put our boots back on and set out across the boggy field. Just looked up “bogs.” Nope. There are four types of wetlands, Google tells me, and apparently, we are marshy, not boggy. Bogs accumulate peat or other plant material, and that’s not us. But when we neared the creek, one could believe we might see alligators and some sort of unpleasant large snake swimming by. Trees with their feet under water, looked like a swamp for sure! We were very impressed, and if we could have crossed the busy channel with it’s mini waterfall, we would have hiked the length of the creek’s bank.

Back at the car, a truck pulled to a stop out on Llewellyn and a man came over to introduce himself. He’s Josh Nelson, lives in that blue house five up from the corner on Bell Fountain. He’s youngish, raising a couple of kids, super nice. We are to stop by any time we need anything or just to say hey. He had some good ‘hood gossip, so we talked for half an hour or so. One nice bit — seems the property across the road has been purchased by someone who wants to graze sheep there. Perfect! And also that the cows usually don’t come onto the hill properties like ours until they’ve grazed the newly planted seed grasses on the flats, and although why anything newly planted wants grazing I don’t know, it does suggest that our cows may be back sometime after all.

On Sunday, Larry went out to see a pick-up he’d identified on Craig’s list. I think this will not be the way for us to shop. A pick-up, yes, but. With Louisiana license plates. Cracked windshield. Parked among 6 other somewhat derelict vehicles. Dirty inside and out. Now this last detail means nothing, but the owner was missing several teeth and rocked a full-on Honey Boo Boo-family beard. Well, it did mean something, and Larry effected a strategic retreat. He’d call and let the man know if he was still interested. Probably not!


It’s raining, a hard rain turning the freeway into a tunnel of tire spray, windshield wipers laboring to keep up, and we are heading for the farm. The first time in several weeks after our Thanksgiving trip to Pasadena, and I am wondering if I will still be enchanted.

Now, at my desk, I look up the source of that word, “enchanted.” Comes from French and Latin, from the word “cantare” or to sing. This enchantment business appears often enough in fairy tales, usually featuring an ugly frog and a princess. It’s generally the frog who is enchanted, but in my own little tale, I am, of course the princess, so the thing is backwards. Will my lovely Hundred Acre Wood turn out to be a muddy toad, or will I?

You can see that I have lots of time on the road to Corvallis, in the rain, to worry. We were hurrying to the first of three appointments that morning, but the weather had slowed traffic and therefore, Larry was worrying, too.

The first was to meet with Tyrone Simmons, a builder, with the purpose of deciding if we would like to work with him, and he with us. He had come recommended through an association of Rod’s, and Larry had interviewed his references, so we were pretty sure that we’d like him. But did he, based in Salem, want to build in Corvallis? The meeting seems to have been successful, and he’ll be drawing up a bid for the project. He has a quality of stillness, and experience, and in addition, a wry sense of humor that promises to make our collaboration fun as well as rewarding. So far, so good.

Next was Tony, the Fence Guy. We want, at the moment, to build a connecting piece between Llewellyn and the gate, to prevent recreational activities further up the property, but eventually to fence the entire length of the driveway. Or “lane,” as friend Vik would have it. I like to watch the process as one of our “guys” learns what we think we want, then tries to show us how the world really works. If we want the fence to be far enough from the driveway, excuse me, lane, so that it doesn’t have to swerve around the fire-marshall mandated turnouts, do we realize that we’d have long swaths that would have to be mowed between fence and lane? Um, no. Hadn’t thought about that.

Tony is seriously cute. I know, that’s a ridiculous word, and it’s not that he’s handsome, though he is. He’s wiry and Italian-looking all right, but his eyes are always laughing, as if the world and these sweet old folks in it are a source of absolute joy. Well, we always like to provide amusement where we can. He’ll send us photos of the types of fence that would work, and a sense of the cost. Which Larry would be the first to tell you, he will find too much.

I want to take a minute here, before I get to the bad news, to tell you something. A bit ago I reconnected with a friend from the old days. It’s been interesting to watch how our lives play out, but a comment of his in response to my princess-on-the-farm adventure caused me to consider how this narrative must feel to anyone who has been a real farmer on a subsistence farm. Where the work to provide for the family can be hard and mean and dirty. Not a fairy tale at all. So, I get that. I promise I know the difference, and I have huge respect for the real work of raising food.

Now, back to my story. We though that the arborist, James Robles, would come, have a look at our amazing trees and suggest a bit of pruning, perhaps. We have, after all, planned to nestle our house in the shelter of one of the grandest oaks on the whole property. That is not what happened.

James arrived with Henry and Thomas in tow. These two are the real tree guys, as you can tell by the fisherman-type yellow slicker overalls, the knit skullcaps and generous beards. James is the one who studied trees in college, they are the ones with the hard eyes and the saws. They have a look around. The news is indeed bad. The stately old tree, the cornerstone of our site plan, is doomed. It has a enormous hole in the trunk some six feet off the ground into which years of rain have poured. The whole tree will split apart on some date in the future, near future, and crash down on whatever shelters beneath.

Well, damn. So what? Move the proposed site? But the road –lane–already leads to the present site. Not an option. There is no option but to take it down.

We are quiet on the way home. This time, we’re not fighting, just being sad. When this happens, Larry goes inside somewhere, but I will become chirpy. “It’s not so bad,” I will say, or “aren’t we lucky to learn this now.” Really irritating, I know.

It’s not raining any more. I am still enchanted, and love the property even more with the knowledge that this beautiful tree will wound the land when it comes down. Either by the wind, the weight of snow, or Henry and Thomas’s saws.