Today we will start with the sheep. Before, in the barn:

After, in the pasture:

Mike Wahl, the owner, but whom, for the poetry of the thing, I will call the shepherd:

And the shearing crew, whose names I did not learn:

I did learn that shearing is a dusty, loud (the generator), dirty job, but the men are skilled and the sheep none the worse for the experience. However, they have 90 days yet to live, out in the afore mentioned sunlit green pastures before their lives are ended. Michael Pollan notwithstanding, that ending is a scene I could not visit. So I’m not a real farmer, after all. The sheep will grow a new, pelt, rated No.1 before they are slaughtered. Meanwhile, they will not suffer from the lack of a winter coat, as Mike has been watching the weather forecast and selected these warm days for the shearing.

One of the naked sheep escaped the fenced enclosure, and I wanted to photograph him. He was agitated and wouldn’t let me get close, but as I stood there, a man in a shiny red car stopped on the road to ask if I needed help rounding him up. I mean, he was going to pull over, get out and help? I now am annoyed with myself that I didn’t introduce myself instead of just reassuring him that the owners were in control. Nice neighbors!


Now let’s talk about the water situation. Sore subject! Jake is the third Well Guy we’ve worked with, though he is technically a Pump Guy, not a driller. He has come to try again to get water from Well No.2 to be tested for salt, and finds it unnecessary even to take this water to the lab, as he can taste how salty it is. And of course, with the particulates of arsenic and other lovely components, this water can’t even be used for irrigation lest it kill the plants. Doomed. We’ve tapped into the Pacific Ocean, it seems. We celebrated too soon.

So, we’re back to Well No.1, the low producer. Jake will test this water to see if it is at least potable. If so, we can pipe it up through the copse to an underground reservoir where it will collect to serve household needs (if my sisters are reading this, remember the cistern?). Jake has a low-tech testing device on his truck and reports that this water has one tenth the particulates as has No.2, which he believes means it won’t be salty. Just sandy. But don’t worry! There’s a solution for that! But now we wait for the lab report, probably available next Monday.

Meanwhile, the Fence Guys are busy drilling post holes for the deer fence they’re building for the orchard trees. And guess what. He invites us to peer into the bottom of one of the holes, and there it is. Water. Flowing. What the? I think it’s one of the springs we’ve been told dot the property, Larry says it’s just seasonal. Hmm. Good thing we’re not planning on a basement, hey?


On Thursday, we go back to meet the asbestos abatement team, and to give them the check. Just FYI, we’re meeting the accountant to create a business standing for the farm and the whole project will become a Very Important Financial Entity. Soon we’ll be getting phone calls from folks eager to help us “grow our business” or “succeed in the market.” Can’t wait! Will report next time with photos of the completed fence and depleted farmhouse.


“Bob,” Will said, sprawled upside down on the sofa, playing on his mini.
“You should call it ‘Bob.'”
This in answer to a comment I’d made to Jenny, who was sitting in the normal fashion on the same sofa, opposite me. You must always assume that children are listening, even when they obviously are not.
“We have to get a name for your dad’s new pick-up,” I’d said. “Any ideas?”

What could be better? Bob. I love it. When possible I will post a photo.

That settled, let’s move on to Saturday. Larry and I went to Philomath, to Shonnard’s Nursery for a class on fruit-tree pruning. Arriving a little early, we took our list over to the bin where the bare root trees were dug into bark dust. Found the apples we want, and went in to find chairs for the lecture. I can’t even tell you how much we didn’t know about pruning trees, but the talk started with a discussion of the necessary tools. I smiled, okay, maybe I was a little smug. I’d said I wanted some new clippers, but Larry said we already have some. True, but they’re not sharp any more and date at least from our Tigard days.

“The weed-whacker,” I started, counting on my fingers. “The truck . . .”
“Okay,” Larry said. “I see your point.” He was wise to concede before I got to the new chain saw. It was clearly my turn.

The lecture over, we went outside for a demonstration of the pruning techniques we were learning. So easy, or so it seems. “Outside and down.” I’m sure it will be formidable when we confront our own new trees. Which we proceeded to select. We will pick them up next week when 1.) the new fence is complete, and 2.) the sheep are out of the barn. Because we can’t pick up the trees until we have Bob, and we can’t have Bob until we’re able to park him overnight in the barn.

Ah, the sheep. There they are, in our pasture:


I have to admit, they’re a bit rough and tumble, not the fluffy white creatures in the sunlit green pastures of my imagination. Not a good photo, because I couldn’t get to the back side of the sun, but still. We’ll have a chance to see the shearing in action next Tuesday, weather permitting.

Larry wanted do give his new saw a test drive, so suited up and pulled a couple of limbs from the burn pile. (It is quite clear from the massive stack of already cut logs that a splitter is in our near future. I would remark that it’s another one for the “Larry’s-toys” column, but to be honest, I think the whole farm belongs in my column, and I won’t be playing that card very often.)


On arrival at home, I pulled the receipt for the trees from the pruning book we’d also acquired at the nursery. “Hey, Larry. Did we want dwarf trees? I thought we were getting semi-dwarf.”

But there they were. Seven trees, all of the dwarf appellation. On to Google. Dwarf trees will grow from 5 to 7 feet, and mature and bear fruit earlier than the semi-dwarf or standard varieties. But 5 feet? That’s shorter than I am. Those would be apple bushes. Not what we had in mind!

We call the nursery and are told that the trees will be 12 feet tall. Is this true? We had just assumed that the trees we were buying were semi-dwarfs, were sure that the bins were labeled that way. Is this another case of “let’s give the old people something they can manage in their cute little yard — after all, they need something that’s going to start producing pronto?” Grr.

We await further clarification when the nursery again opens for business.


And here it is this morning: Poor old thing.


It’s not so bad from the back:


It was going to come down, one way or another:


I counted the rings: Three hundred fifty years old!


But we’d gone to the farm on another mission. The water from our “new” well had gotten a very bad report card from the testing service. Iron. Arsenic. Salt? Actually, we don’t yet know about the salt, because Jake, from Oregon Pump was going to re-test the water this morning. Not that arsenic and iron aren’t bad enough, but if salt, which had unaccountably not been tested, shows up too, we’re in for a huge remediation project.

Larry and I wanted to check on the creek, so turned off the electricity for the fence and climbed through the strands. I wonder how long it would take the cows to realize they’re out of jail, but they appeared to be unconcerned, lazily grazing in the lower pasture. Mark, Cow Guy, says they will know if the electricity is off too long, but how do they figure that out? It looks no different. Cows are smarter than you think.

So here’s Muddy Creek:


I said we should get a raft or canoe, and Larry gave me the look. “You don’t even like boats. And how, for instance, would we launch it, there being no discernible bank. And what, you think we’d go drifting along spotting birds, maybe having a picnic?” All of that in one look, but we’ve been married a long time and I got it. No, I’m serious. Doesn’t it look beautiful?
Well, click on the photo and you’ll see.

We walked the long way around the oak copse and up along the back edge of our property. Here are some of our neighbors:


Jesse, from Shonnards, arrived to discuss the siting for the elk fence. Seems they can start next Tuesday, so we wrote a check, shook hands and he left. And then walked down to see how the well testing was getting on. Found that it wasn’t. Seems the well pump was plugged with whatever and Jake will have to come back with the big truck, pull the pump, clean it, and then run water for the sample. Under the circumstances, he wanted to see the first, unsuccessful well. If, he tells us, that water is good (unlike 2nd well’s water) he would recommend developing a storage tank system for the 2 gallons-per-minute available there. So he will do a flow test on that water next week, too.

As you can imagine, Larry finds this pretty stressful! Somehow it feels like my fault when stuff goes wrong. I know this is irrational. But Larry stopped and bought a Stihl power saw, I came home and ate some ice-cream, and we both feel much better.

On Saturday, we go to a fruit tree pruning class in Philometh. We saw some tarps and equipment by the barn that make us believe that the sheep will be there soon. Stay tuned!


We’ll start with the tree. Here it is in all it’s splendor.


The tree is dying of some internal, invisible rot, or at least that is what the arborist, James, told us. But it’s a wonderful tree, and we are going to take it down. This is very hard for Larry, who would prefer to re-route the driveway, if that were not so spectacularly stupid from an economic point of view.

So we got a phone call on Monday morning that the crew was on the way to the property with saws and rigging. And Larry wanted to be there. It was raining fiercely all the way down I 5 and we supposed we would arrive to find the project called off. Yet it was somehow almost sunny when we arrived, so there was no stay of execution. Work had already begun, and it was fascinating to see how a tree comes down if you don’t simply saw it off at stump level.

At least I was fascinated; Larry mourned. I suggested that this was more fun than the Super Bowl, but that was silly. We like the Hawks and all, but this was our tree, for God’s sake.
Here are the woodsmen: Guy and Henry and Tom. As you see, they have already been busy removing limbs from the main, but alas crooked, stem. Click on the photo and you will see Henry high in the tree.


I always fall in love, a little, with these men who work outside, handling huge machines or, in this case, moving with grace and caution about their business. These three manage to move tons of wood through the air with chainsaws, pulleys, harnesses, skill, and caution. When I asked to take their pictures for my blog, Guy was interested. He’s an acoustic guitar singer/songwriter and wants to use the blogosphere to promote his music. I wish him every success.

We had to leave before the main event, and won’t know if enough of the tree remains to shelter the house, as we had planned. Because we had a stop to make at the county offices.

The report from the asbestos survey had come in, with minimal material to remove. Good! Next we have to submit a demolition petition before we may tear down the old house. We must decommission the septic system, if such there be, provide maps, and here’s the good one, photos of the interior, exterior, roof, indoor plumbing to include an operating toilet, kitchen faucets, heating etc., etc. Seriously? We’re TEARING IT DOWN! Does it matter if there’s a toilet? Apparently so.

I phoned the county petition desk to speak to a woman we’ll call Linda. But she is with a customer, is, apparently, always with a customer. However, she will call me back and attempt to answer my question regarding this requirement. As we have already proved, with photos and, in fact, legal council, that this thing we want to pull down is actually a house, may we not refer, on this form, to the county’s files thereon?

Linda has kindly, in a phone message, assured me that we need to provide photos to document that a tree, for example, has not fallen on the roof and thus compromised the entire project. We determine to visit the petition desk in person.

Of course Linda is with another customer and so we wait. I am patient with the certainty that logic will prevail in this case. And finally it is our turn. Linda is also patient. This is not her department. Who helped us previously? By some miracle, she, Janet is in. Comes into Linda’s office. Looks at the document approving our project and says certainly. Just refer to the case number on our document.

In order to calm myself, I offer this photo of sheep, gathered for the first time directly across Llewellyn from our driveway. I don’t know if these are to be our sheep for shearing, but aren’t they beautiful?


You can count them if you have trouble sleeping tonight.