Aha! I did it! Pretty proud of myself!

So, here’s Eric:

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Moise: Couldn’t get a photo of him, but if you use your imagination, you’ll see him at the top of a ladder somewhere, hammering something.

Inside the little grandkid’s room above the garage:


View of the Homestead Oak from inside kid room. Maybe this will be MINE instead. Great practice room!


Our new favorite hangout, The Longbranch Bar and Grill in Monroe, Wednesday special, the $5.00 cheeseburger basket:


Okay, now scroll down to read today’s earlier post, without illustrations.


With that steep roof over the living room it looks as if we’re building a little gnome home here in the Hundred Acre Woods. So precious!


So wrong! Seems the folks who build trusses missed the mark by two feet and those forms, for which we waited a couple of weeks, will have to come down. Another couple of weeks until the correct forms can arrive, so the carpenters have been quite busy on the garage. Tyrone not happy, with the rain coming and no roof over the house.

So let me introduce these carpenters: Here are Eric, Doug, and Moise. (NOOOOO! “An error occurred in the download, try again later.” Phone call to MAC Force. Miles not in until Monday. I try again. “An error . . .” So, once again, no photos.)

“Tell me about Eric,” I say to Tyrone. “Does he have a family? Is he nice. Is he funny?”

“He’s married, has two kids. I don’t know if he’s funny. Why do you ask?”

“Vik wants to know. How about Doug and Moise? Are they funny?”

“Well, Moise doesn’t even talk, but he’s a great worker. Doug’s a fisherman, and me and him talk about baseball.”

There you go, Vik. Best I can do for now.

We had a good meeting with Steve, sitting under the Homestead Oak. He and Jarod of USF&W have been at work, and came up with a scheme whereby they pretty much divide the property in half. They take the floodplain and wetlands, leaving us the savanna and woods for grazing, and for Monarch and Fender’s Blue Butterfly habitats. Also, we get to keep the oak copse.

This is not to say they literally will own half the property, just that they’ll undertake restoration of same. To include vernal pools in the wetlands. A vernal pool is an ephemeral body of water which contains no outlet, which dries in the summer and fall. Important for aquatic species such as salamanders and for wild flowers, such as lomatium and meadowfoam. Hmm. And mosquitoes, maybe?

Later in the afternoon, Larry was at work with the weed whacker when Mike (Sheep Guy) stopped by. The drums are beating for that tractor for Larry, and Mike contributed his share. You Have to have a tractor. You can’t run 100 acres with a weed whacker, Larry. There followed some technical stuff about shear pins, fuel lines, etc. But he just wanted to tell us, he said, about our pear tree. Did we know of it? He and his wife stop by every evening to feed “the girls” and their calves, and note that they’ve eaten all the windfall pears, as well as all the fruit within reach. Is that okay with us?

But before we get a tractor, we do have to get the doors to the garage in place. Mike says anybody could come by, jack up our truck and take the tires. We’ve been lucky, he says, that the only vandalism so far had been the basketball hoop and stand that someone left by the side of the barn. Upon hearing this, we’ve decided to park the truck up by the construction until it’s safe to leave in the barn. We’re naive and innocent, but we probably shouldn’t be stupid as well. That tractor will have to park behind locked doors.

Meanwhile, we think about our orchard, and with what to underplant it. Steve suggests New Zealand, aka Dutch, clover. We should rake out the plot, then wait on the first rain. Which is this weekend, you’ll note. Then we are to broadcast the seed, and use something to drag the soil across it. A used bed-spring is good for this, he tells us. He means, dragged behind the not-yet existent tractor, I believe, but get a visual of Larry hauling such a thing through the trees behind him. Am relieved that we have, in addition to no tractor, no used bed-spring.

But the clover should be good for the “lawn” area around the house as well, as it’s perennial, low growing, fragrant, green through the dry season. The bees love it, and they’ll help with pollination. (I’d been imagining a little bare-foot time in this clover, but the bees put a stop to that fantasy.)

The rains have come, we’ve learned where we can get the clover seed as well as the little whirling device which spreads the seeds, and feel well on the way.

This Monday, I hope to find Miles, resolve the photo-to-blog issues, and send you a week’s worth of photos. Fingers crossed!


“I’m writing my blog, and if I say ‘the broken tree,’ do you know which one I mean?”

Larry doesn’t even look up from the paper. “I can think of three, off the top,” he says, and continues reading.

Hmm. “Well I mean the one where the chairs are and we sit and talk to people and have lunch and stuff.”

Larry is a most patient man. He puts his paper aside. “But that one isn’t even broken. It’s butchered. It’s amputated. If you say ‘the amputated tree . . .'”

But that doesn’t — no, that’s not what I’m going for. “If I call it the ‘homestead tree’ will you know what I mean?

So. We sat under the homestead tree talking to Mark about the future of cows. He’s willing to move the beasts around, advise us on forage planting, limit the number of animals, work on water solutions. And, he said, the time to plow is now. I’ll get you some names.

Now? We look around the valley and see plumes of dust from busy tractors everywhere. How had we failed to notice? We have to get going! (I don’t mean that we, personally, have to acquire a tractor and get out there, but thanks to Mal and Vic for the encouragement in that direction.)

But my sister and family are here and we have a schedule to keep. One more week won’t matter. And we’ll meet with Tom Snyder from NRCS (National Resource Conservation Services) and get his help with respect to dividing the fields, and so on.

On Thursday, we sit under the tree (you know which one) and talk with Tom. He is horrified and apologetic that he missed our meeting the previous week because he noted the wrong date on his calendar. He’s so smart and competent that we forgive him just about anything. Get started plowing? No!

“I’ve never understood these farmers here,” he says. “Im from Minnesota” — stop right here. Do I need to tell you the importance of this statement? Didn’t think so. “I’m from Minnesota and have lived with farming all my life, and I know that it’s all wrong to pack the living, breathing biome of earth to the point where air and water can’t penetrate.” And so on.

We don’t need to plow, in the first place, he says, as plowing will turn over decades of weed seed, ready to embrace the sun and bloom. We need to disturb the soil by disc-ing, at most. We should consider seed injection after spraying out the emerging tansy and thistle, and disturbing the soil. This should happen no sooner than next spring. We should plant a mixture of three grass species and two legumes.

He will send us attachments to explain all the processes we should consider, but he certainly supports rotational grazing as the most viable method of over-all conservation of prairie lands such as ours. He’s so glad we’re working with Steve Smith (Conservation Guy), and Jarod of USF&W. He’ll be more than glad to help us. (Yeah, I love this Tom. He’s a little bit plump and wears a plaid short-sleeved shirt and tries to balance three reports and notes on his lap while the wind blows everything about. Big smile.)

Tom was followed by someone whose name I forget (I don’t love him for a minute) who will send us an estimate for the fence we want to extend along both sides of the driveway/road/autobahn. I’m sure he’s fine, as Tyrone-our-builder recommended him, but he kept pitching the virtues of plastic fencing. So wrong!

This morning, I find an e-mail from Tom, attaching 6 reports, including PastureGrazingMgmt, Weed Control, and even “Small ac horse farms”. We need not concern ourselves with small acreage horse farming, and I should note that he failed to include anything about raising chickens, but I have my reading to do this morning.

While my own personal Minnesotan is off to the golf course, a much-needed recreational break from this business of farming. It seems there’s not much to do immediately, now that plowing is off the table, but we can begin to consider thinning the oak copse. Yes. This will provide the opportunity for a LOT of power-saw activity. My brother-in-law, the wonderful Matt Scanlon, told us how he and Mary acquire wood stove wood: they observe downed trees in White Plains and environs, contact the company they see at work and ask that the logs be delivered to their home. Where Matt has a saw and: A SPLITTER. His own splitter? Larry’s eyes alight. If Matt can do it . . .

A deeply felt thanks to you, my friends and advisers, for your notes of encouragement about my blog. I don’t have photos for you today, even though Miles, from MacForce, has straightened out my computer once again, but I just forgot to take any last time out.


“Been a year now,” I say. “When exactly did we sign the papers?”

“More than a year,” Larry says. “Thirteen months. We signed on July 10, ’14.”

Time to see how we’re doing, then. We went to the H.A.Woods Saturday morning with the intent to start work on the weedy mess that occupies the vacancy where the old house once stood. A couple of big-leaf maples that are being strangled by the loving embrace of English ivy. Tangles of blackberry, thistle, an undergrowth of vinca, and a wealth of smashed cans, an old colander, plastic bags.

So, we can count the demolition of the house as one accomplishment for the year, plus the driveway and the new house that’s rising up on the hill. Is that a lot for one year?

Okay, then let’s add the contract we signed with USF&W and the Conservation Plan drawn up with Steve Smith. Which were made possible by walk-about visits we made to the neighboring conservation sites along the Muddy Creek corridor, as well as walk-abouts on our own property with Steve, locating native plants, counting birds.

Our little orchard is thriving, neatly fenced in from elk and deer, none of which have we seen in person, by the way, if “in person” can apply to large, horn-bearing mammals.

The large, dangerous oak in the back yard has been tamed, distorted, and while this was necessary, I suppose, I don’t think of this as an accomplishment. Something we had to do, and did.

The cows. Wouldn’t call that a success, as they’ve severely overgrazed the savanna. The wetland doesn’t seem to have suffered as much, nor the oak forest or creek banks. But the good news is that Mark Wahl, Cow-Guy, has agreed to the concept of rotational grazing next year in return for a waiver of the leasing fee.

But we completely lost the war with the tansy, thistle, and blackberry. Giving up, we have an agreement with a sprayer to do the berries this September. A hundred dollars an hour. Whew. So he’ll go until we say stop. We don’t know if he’ll spray, then come back and grind the stalks after the roots have swallowed the poison, or grind as he goes. One of the many, many things we have to learn. Too late for tansy and thistle, but he’ll spray next spring or early summer when appropriate.

A snapshot: Saturday morning. We drive to the barn, where Larry straps himself into the weed-whacker harness, and turns on the machine. Nope. The filament is down to a stub, and the machine won’t release additional strand as it is meant to do. Sigh. This requires a half-hour of disassembly, a certain amount of swearing, as things don’t go back properly, and then, success. But no, as he begins to work, the machine fails again. More mechanical tinkering, and it becomes clear that a farmer needs to be a mechanical engineer as much as anything else. But finally, it all works, and our Larry works for a couple of hours clearing the undergrowth.

Meanwhile, I’ve been picking blackberries using a new system I’ve devised for taming the murderous thorns, and have several quarts cooling under ice in the car.

We quit for lunch, and head for the Longbranch Bar and Grill in Monroe, discovered last Wednesday after golf with friend Dinah at Diamond Woods. Great atmosphere, good food. We discuss whether we’ll return for another round of clearing at the farm, but choose instead to have a look at a John Deere tractor out on the edge of the road to the golf course.

It’s pretty cool. Just the right size, a 2008 model, but we can’t tell if it’s diesel. Larry kicks the tires, metaphorically, and says he’ll call later, after perusing the pamphlets he’s been acquiring from the John Deere dealer back at home. But my sense is that he doesn’t want to jump into tractor ownership until it’s clear that he really needs one. Don’t want to have a shiny green machine sitting in the barn, gathering mouse poop and cobwebs. I agree. We’ll see. We absolutely will need a mower of some size, and a rider, such as we had in Tigard, would be wildly inadequate. Seriously, Larry is a good, intuitive mechanic, but is what he knows enough?

I’m disappointed in myself,” Larry says on the way home that afternoon. “I should be able to work longer than two hours, and I’m just exhausted.”

I’m disappointed in myself, too. I haven’t written much about my brilliant musical career, but it is part of our decision about how much time we imagine we’ll spend on the farm versus here in PDX. Right now, I have to wait until Monday morning to see if I’m still on the mailing list for the next practice of the Spotted Cats. I know my own inadequacy, but would like the chance to improve. Can’t really ask that if the band suffers from its lame, struggling banjo player.

The answer, of course, is to accept the limitations of age and competence. That was the promise when we launched the big farm adventure. Each day to have fun, meet the challenges as we can. Don’t give up. Of course we get tired, and of course we stumble over the electric fence and fall into ditches and weed whack a tree to death.

I set out to write a “Year in Provence” kind of account with the hope that I can whip the pages into some form and begin the masochistic process of trying to publish it. Now the year has passed, and my mission with this blog will change. Larry is probably quite relieved that I won’t be “sharing” our pratfalls and mistakes. Oh. Well, maybe I will. Sorry, Larry.