When we arrived on Friday morning, Lee had already begun work with his big yellow excavator. Stop! Will wasn’t there yet, and the whole adventure had been planned to coincide with a school holiday so that he might see the show. He would have preferred a fire, but we were unable to accommodate him in this idea.

Lee, a most amiable young man, turned to work on the garage until the Ederers could arrive. There are seven members in that little family, four people, a dog, and two cats. Eddie, a French bulldog, was included on this day, but the cats had been left behind. On their arrival, Lee was introduced all around. Eddie began to inhale all the wonderful sheep essence lingering in the barn and the people turned to watch the excavation exhibition. First bite:


The house seemed made of balsa wood, shattering, splintering with no resistance. We were all surprised at the ease with which it came down. Then Lee asked Larry if he would like to have a swing at it.
Yes! Really? Larry has no experience managing huge equipment, but boys everywhere would envy the chance. Here he is learning a new trade:


He reports that it was thrilling, but was alarmed when the whole machine seemed to rock on its treads at impact, and was glad enough to climb down.

Here’s a photo essay:





And how did I feel, watching? I should have been touched at the pink sprigged wallpaper in an upstairs bedroom. A mom wanting a pretty room for her little daughter. A TV antenna on the roof, so a little family watching I Love Lucy, or Father Knows Best? (Remember TV antennae?) I wasn’t touched. Someone had planted an apple and a pear tree, someone may have planted all the daffodils, or baked a pie or fed the chickens, but nothing remains to tell us someone lived here. Just an ugly old house, now gone.

Time for lunch. Tom and Jenny decided that Eddie could stay behind, and closed him inside the orchard fence with food and water. He’ll stay there, they believed. But of course, he didn’t.

Gone missing. The kids called for him, and Tom decided to drive down to the house (ex-house by now) in search. The lost puppy, however, soon arrived in state riding up the driveway in Lee’s pickup. Seems Eddie, no dummy, had, on his abandonment, trotted down to see his new friend. Who thought it would be fun to have the dog in the cab of the excavator with him while he worked. A dog’s life for sure!

Larry and Tom got to work on the new gate. Alli got to work driving first Bob, then her family’s SUV. Fourteen-year-old farm kids need these skills.


Then it was time for Jenny to take Eddie to his overnight stay at Virginia Woof’s back in Portland. The rains began. Tom and Larry stayed to complete the gate.


Good job, guys! A shout out to Aaron, who let us keep the all-important drill another day.

On Monday, Lee came back to complete the job of loading the debris into a series of drop boxes, which were hauled to the dump. I suspect it’s not a lovely scene, not yet. But in my imagination, the trees are trimmed, grass rippling in a breeze, the daffodils bright. Maybe this is where I’ll have my roadside fruit stand?

P.S. That’s a joke, people!




“Shit, shit, shit!”


“Forgot the truck keys.”

Hmm. We’re approaching the Corvallis exit on the freeway Wednesday morning. Going to build a new, wider gate for the orchard fence, or corral, as Larry has it. Can’t do much without Bob to haul the 2×4’s from the lumber yard or, more important, get at the tools which are securely locked inside good ole Bob.

We turn around. But it is a beautiful morning, and we’ve gotten an early start. The fog is lifting, the cherry trees are in bloom, the newest lambs are dotting the green fields along the way. We listen to a few extra chapters on Audible, we laugh at ourselves. We have all day.

“Don’t worry, I won’t post this on the blog,” I say.

So, back at the farm, we climb into the truck and head for the lumber yard. Buy the stuff, including the hinges, nails, wire staples and decide to eat the lunch we’ve brought from home en route, as Larry is eager to get started on the carpentry.

Except, halfway back, Larry slams on the breaks. “I can’t believe it. We only loaded 8 2×4’s, and I bought 11.”

We turn around. We pick up the remaining wood, get back to the farm and finally, finally are ready to start. It’s not that easy. Luckily, Aaron has loaned us his drill kit, so drilling the nails instead of hammering has immeasurably shortened the task.


About then, a car drives us the road, and it’s Steve Smith, the biologist, and his wife, Shelly. They’re here to do their weekly walk-around looking for emerging flowers. I decide to go with them. It’s been very wet, 2 inches of rain in the previous week, so walking includes a lot of sloshing. Steve is most interested in the water ways, looking for a rare species which grows on creek-side banks. We find trillium, but no poison oak. Hooray for that! Seems the cows graze it down. Hooray for cows.

Up into the oak woods looking for fawn lily:

Here’s a view of the afternoon landscape in the oak copse:


It’s been a good day. Larry hasn’t finished the gate, but the Ederers are coming down on Friday to watch the old house come down, and Tom will be able to help Larry finish and situate the gate.

At home, I go into my office to write a post. But where’s my iMini with the photos? Can’t find it anywhere. Oh, yeah. I left it in the truck. Sigh. Two old people buy a farm.


A rainy morning last week, and the usual suspects gather for coffee and donuts. Difficult for an outsider to know where to look — Nutcakes, which has all those froofy latte-type drinks instead of just coffee? No, this morning, everyone seems to be at Eats and Treats. Gluten free. Go figure. This is a work of imagination, resemblance to actual people fairly intentional, but it’s mostly lies. Proceed, but don’t believe everything.

“Hey, Bud, how’d the shearing go this year?” a friend calls across to Mike. This friend labors under the weight of 50 plus years of good eating, most of it probably not gluten-free. He laughs.

“Went fine. Had a buck slip past the nutters and get penned in with all the girls and wethers. Guess somebody couldn’t count to two. Lively night.”

“How’d the new people treat you? Anybody faint at the sight of those poor little lambs getting beat up?”

“No, they were fine. Heard one of the boys admiring her shiny boots, though. Said she polishes them every night.”

“Shut up,” says one of the women in the group. “Nobody polishes barn boots, let alone every night.”

“Heard her say it myself. They were pretty shiny.” [Author’s note: She did say that she shined her boots every night in response to the shearer’s remark. It was a joke. Apparently unappreciated.]

“Saw them talking to you on the road the other day,” says someone else, unknown to the author.

“Yeah, they wanted to know if it’s time for plowing. Don’t know what they’re going to plow, though. Maybe that new little orchard they got going up top there.”

“Good luck with that,” snorts Friend. “I seen that so-called deer fence Shonnard’s build them. Not near high enough. Plus there’s this little gate. How’s a tractor gonna get through the fricking fence in the first place?

Joe speaks up. Being right is always sweet. “Could have told them they didn’t need to go drilling another well. Two gallons a minute’s just plenty for us ordinary folks. But guess they got some spare money lying around so they go and hire that fancy witch. “A ‘Sounder,’ he calls himself. They drill a new well where he points out and they find lots of water, all right. Salt water.

Smiles all around.

“I heard she’s an artist,” someone says. “Going around taking pictures all the time. Don’t know what he does, or did. Probably retired.”

“No, I heard she grew up on a farm somewhere. Sang with a band, or something. I think it was Minnesota. He’s a banker. Has his own airplane, so he wanted to locate near the airport. Drives that big old Lexus, and then he goes and gets a truck. But if he wants to throw money around, fine by me. Just so’s some of it comes my way.”

“You hear about that augur they rented to drill holes for their little orchard? Not saying Philomath did it on purpose, but I’d like to seen what happened when they found out the augur didn’t reverse.”

“They probably didn’t even know that it was supposed to reverse. Not sure city folk should be out wrestling heavy equipment, anyway. Lucky he didn’t get a heart attack.”

“Well, at least they’re tearing down that old eyesore house along the road. They do nothin’ else, we can thank ’em for that. But, gotta run, trench the drainage along the south field. Hope this rain keeps up; spring’s coming on too early this year.”

Everyone leaves.


The muffins at Eats and Treats are really good. Next time you’re in Philomath, look them up. All gluten-free, and they serve gorgeous BBQ.

Friend was right about the deer fence. It’s probably high enough, but the fence was designed and built by Shonnard’s, and although we didn’t think to enquire if the proposed gate would be wide enough to admit farm equipment, we think maybe Shonnard’s should have taken that question into consideration. Nonetheless, we’re working on it, and in the meantime, let the neighbors have their fun.

The house comes down on Friday! And we’ve found a man who will till the orchard, mowing it first, on Friday as well. Lots going on! Photos will be taken.


Friday morning, and it’s a miracle! After two days of pain, after nearly tipping over on the simple act of walking, after a night spent on the heating pad, Larry arises and is cured. What the? How can this be? Only explanation, courtesy of Dr. Jane, is that he was suffering a partial dislocation of that pesky hip appliance. It must have popped back in during the night and, save some residual tenderness, he’s good to go.

Which is amazing, as we had both given up on the idea of getting those baby trees into the ground. Digging will be necessary. Lifting, hauling, and no sons or grandsons around to oblige. We will have to hire it done, and soon. But now? We saddle up the SUV and head south.

First we have to turn in the application for demolition at the County Permit Counter, open daily from 9 to 1, as we discovered on Wednesday when we tried to turn it in at 4. Oh that County of ours. Good sense of humor. We expect a long wait, but today seems to belong to us. We’re in and out in 15 minutes. Now we wait to see if they approve and we can proceed on the 20th.

Over to Shonnard’s where our trees are being held for us. We’ve devised a system for hauling water out to the farm in the form of two large trash cans lashed to the bed of the truck. We’re lucky in getting permission to use Shonnard’s water, and while Larry is overseeing the arrangements, I go to the counter to pay for the advised soil amendments.

“You’re going to be fine here,” the cashier, a middle-agish woman tells me. Her name tag proves her to be a Shonnard, maybe the wife of the owner? She has noted on her computer that our address places us in Portland. She assumes that we are moving to Corvallis. A reasonable guess.

I’m a little puzzled, but smile. “Well, thanks.”

“People your age, well, I mean, um, people like you . . .”

What is she getting at? “You mean old people?” I ask. Let’s get this over with.

“Yes.” She is relieved. “Old people get along very well here. You can get anywhere you need to without going out onto the highway. And the medical care is excellent, with the University, and the hospitals so near by. You’ll be fine.”

Apparently 75 is the new 90. I can’t wait to tell Larry this one. In the truck, I pull down the flap to look in the mirror and see what that woman saw. Was I looking particularly old this day, or is this my new reality? Don’t know.

Okay, the day somewhat bruised, we set about planting the trees. The augured holes are a good start, but not close to big enough. Larry digs through the thatch around the edges, and I work to shave the remaining clay into an appropriate shape for the trees. It’s a warm day, and the work is hard. Mindful of our promise to pace ourselves, I insist on taking water breaks.

Larry is patient, but after the third such interruption he sighs. “We might be able to get this job done today if we don’t keep stopping to ‘hydrate’ ourselves,” he notes.

We’re missing the Royal Anne cherry, which leaves us 8 trees to get into the ground. Here they are:


At 3:30, we have them watered in. Our idea of siphoning water from the cans has failed and we’ve had to use the old-tech bucket-brigade method. We’re pretty darned proud of ourselves. We need to pick up the chunks of turf around the trees and rake in the excess dirt, but decide to save that chore for another day. We park the truck in the barn and head for the highway. Take that, Mrs. Shonnard! I know, I know, pride goeth ahead of a fall, but we had ourselves a fine, lovely day.


Time to get those fruit trees in the ground. Spring has come early to the Willamette Valley this year, our deer and elk fence is up, let’s go!

Things go wrong. Larry thinks he will use his weed-whacker (you remember the weed-whacker?) to clear circles through the lush grass which has grown up in the orchard space, thus making it easier to augur the holes for the trees. But somehow he has mis-assembled this machine and it is frozen. He can’t fix it, having no tools to hand.

But this is probably okay, as we have to pick up the augur we’ve reserved at Philomath Rental, and they will surely have the tools we need. They do. This place is a candy store for boys, especially out back where there are drawers and shelves of every tool in Farmlandia. Plus a friendly owner who knows how to use them. It smells like oil in there, and there is a vending machine for peanuts. Heaven.

It isn’t long until we have the weed whacker corrected and ready for action, and the augur hitched to the Bob’s back. (Remember, Bob is the truck.) There are instructions, to which Larry has attended with admirable focus. Annoyed by the weed-whacker failure, he will by God make this augur thing work correctly.

Right. First thing, the the machine will not un-hitch from the tow bar. Swearing ensues. Luckily, at this moment, our friends Lou and Jae arrive. They have come down to see the about-to-be-torn-down house on the property with the thought that there will be wood to salvage. Lou may play the clarinet in our band, but he’s all about tools and guy stuff, cars, you get the idea. While Jae admires the mistletoe in the oaks, Lou and Larry get to work, and soon the augur pops free.

Good. Problem solved? The men position the augur. Larry flips the switch, and magically, a hole is bored into the ground. Way easier than trying to dig holes with a shovel, right. Except for one little thing. The reverse lever on the machine malfunctions, and there we have a one hundred-pound drill bored into the earth, which will not work its way back out of the hole. More swearing.

Bless good friends! Lou and Larry muscle the stupid machine out of the ground and in and out of eight more holes. I’m pretty tough, but without Lou’s help, the alternate ending to this story would have seen us so pissed, returning the machine to the shop, holes not dug, husband in a very bad mood.

Instead we go to lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Philomath, and reluctantly see Lou and Jae off to Portland. We return to the farm to meet the excavator. I am sure he is a lovely man, kind to his wife and children. He opines that our new deer fence won’t hardly keep nothin’ out, do we know how high deer can jump? Of course he may be right, but I dearly hope not. It will be his job to level the ground for the construction of the house, to dig a channel for the water from Well #1 to reach the house, and to take down the old house. I am sure he knows his business. I am not in love with him, as you may have intuited.

Next we meet with John from Consumer Power to discuss the power easement from our neighbors — who are extraordinarily nice in not only giving us the easement (not demanding payment) but traveling through Benton County hoops to secure the deal. These people I certainly do love! We decide where to place the transformer. Don’t worry, we’ll plant a lilac tree to shield it from the road. Yes, we always meant to have a lilac tree. Blue, I think.

It’s been a long day, and Larry says his leg hurts. What? I notice that he’s limping. Maybe it’s bursitis? Is bursitis contagious? On the way home, I can’t help the dark thoughts. I say that it doesn’t matter how long we have; we have this one day, maybe tomorrow, and that is enough. But I know what can happen. He will be okay without me, but I without him?


“I though you said you were getting this property as a kind of Nature Conservancy thing, I mean, back at the beginning, and now it seems to be all about the wells, the road. . .”

“Yeah, I know. We’re going to . . .”

“The power saw? Cows? Sheep? Doesn’t sound all that environmental.”

“No, listen. The enviro folks at the beginning said we should own it for a year before. . .”

“The truck? Seriously?”

Oh, the truck! Bob. Here’s a photo with it’s former owner and new owner. The truck has 170 thousand plus miles on it, which is about the same mileage on Larry, so it’s a great fit.


Now, may I tell you about the well situation first? Then we’ll get to the environmental news, which is really cool. So. Remember that Well #2 came up pure salt water and we were going to test the water from Well #1? We finally got the lab report. We’ve celebrated too early before, but it does look as if this one will do the job. We’re staying calm.

Anyway, I called The NRCS agent, Samantha Bartling, for help on the subject of the environment, and got the name of a wildlife biologist, Steve Smith. He’s retired after 30 years with ODFW and USFWS, and now helps property owners create strategies for reclamation, restoration. Steve met with us last Thursday, and will provide us with an outline of what we can do, and what agencies can help.

We walked the property with him, and we felt that we’d been given new eyes. Seeing what we already had seen, but not. If that makes sense. So he bends down, brushes aside the fallen oak leaves and there is the tiniest sprout of something. Fawn lilies, he exclaims. And here’s ranunculus! And a lot of other somethings whose names I have already forgotten. In another month, he says, this will be a field of blue.

Don’t like the blackberries? Oh, you can form a partnership with ODFW. They have the equipment and the manpower to come onto the property and uproot the vines. Just call them.

Steve’s wife is a botanist, and would like to come out and help inventory the native plants, he says. We can get a bird inventory. There are salmon, chub, trout, in Muddy Creek, and turtles, and frogs. Oh, and by the way, what, he asks, is behind that gate along the eastern boundary?

He thinks that property is ours, too, that what we think is actual Muddy Creek is just a spur, that creek proper is well to the east. There was a NRCS survey a few years ago that should tell us. Well. We’ll see about this one. It’s not like I can tell what a hundred acres should feel like, and oops, we’re a little short.

It’s exciting! Not everyone, of course, has dirt under their fingernails (apparently it’s okay now to use “their” as a non-gender specific singular personal adjectival pronoun, in case you’re concerned). Last week, I took a friend with me to see my farm, and was glad to hear her say that she liked the smell of a barn, even one recently occupied by sheep, that she didn’t mind mud, that our oak trees are indeed beautiful. I hope that one day, every visitor may feel the same way.

That’s the goal. In the meanwhile, it’s back to planting those fruit trees. Next week’s goal. Steve gently suggested that tree planting is a young man’s game, and Larry might do well to rent an augur for the project. Sweet!