Now let us speak of furniture.

Yes, we do have to. Or I could tell you about my latest visit to the dentist?

No? Thought so. Okay, here goes furniture: Vik took me by the arm (at my request) and marched me off to the area furniture stores. See, I’d been imagining that on some lazy summer day Larry and I would amble around antique shops and find several charming pieces, one at a time, that we could refurbish, re-cover, and deliver to the farm. There we’d arrange them, layout-ready for the Modern Farmer photo shoot. (I love Modern Farmer. It’s where I got the idea about the alpacas, but more about that some other time.)

We all know the above was fantasy, day-dreams. Back to reality. Vik took me off and after a preliminary stop or two, we arrived at Parker Furniture in Beaverton. One look told me that this was not the place from which to furnish a little-house-with-apple-tree. Picture a long, curved, white brocade sofa, overhung with a crystal chandelier, picture the blonde creature who owns it, along with her precious little dog and elegant manicure, sipping Pinot Gris. “Aren’t you so inspired?” asked the sales person as we made our escape.

And yet. (You saw this coming.) Vik had spotted a “fabulous” chandelier made of white antlers . . . “we’d be crazy to pass this one up. Must take Larry to see it.” Says the patient Viki.

“No!!! No white antlers for me,” say I. “We are not building a faux ski lodge transported from Aspen.” Still, I hauled Larry along and guess what. Not white antlers. No, instead, brass sculpted branches interlaced with 8 to 10 small bulbs like all the winter lights we see around the city in this season of lights. It’s honestly quite beautiful and I can only suggest that the sweep of white sofa blinded me to everything else in the store.

So, chandelier accomplished, we moved on to sofas of our own. By then, JoAnne, an in-house decorator, had taken us on. JoAnne with her curly hair and New York style and sense of humor. “Parker Furniture is exactly the right place for you,” she promised. “We do Little Farm House with the best of them.” She made a copy of our floor plan, arranged some little magnets on the copy and thereby determined what size living-room furniture would be comfortable.

Let’s move on to the blue velvet swivel chairs (isn’t “swivel” a funny word?) Vik noticed on the sales room floor. Studded with nails. I’m not kidding. We could sit in front of the window, turn to admire the bluebirds feasting on mistletoe berries, then swivel to admire the burning logs in the fireplace. Yeah, but blue velvet? These are chairs my parents might have chosen! Besides, what’s Larry going to say? “We have many fabrics from which to choose,” JoAnne gently reassured me.

Yep, swiveling chairs, albeit not blue. Check. Only things missing are the reclining mechanism and cup holders. I am kidding. They’re actually nice, and certainly comfortable. Little old-lady farm-housey, but hey.

Next up, plumbing fixtures. You know, faucets, drawer pulls, that sort of thing. Groan. But what’s all this to do with our conservation mission? Good question. We could have slapped up a nice double-wide, as one passerby suggested early on, and conduct our restoration project in comfort. I know. Who said we need nice furniture? I can’t defend it. I just know what I imagined that afternoon in the Honolulu airport when I began to dream of home.


Note: Today we have a guest author, a farmer of great skill and wisdom, plus, as you will see, an excellent and witty writer. His comments will be particularly helpful for those of you contemplating purchase of a tractor of your own.

“OK…let’s start at the top. That big thingy on the front of your tractor is referred to as a bucket–I mean we’re not dealing with ice cream here. And, as you have discovered when you’re working on level ground (or floor), it is hard to get a big bucket full because the material just moves away from you–a common problem. However, if you have a large pile (of whatever) it will be much easier although you will still have to shovel in the last few bites. When you have a large quantity of mulch and/or gravel (we’re talking yards here–I usually get 10 at a time–gravel or 3-5–mulch) delivered, try to find a spot with a slight slope to it and then work from the downhill side–life will be much easier.”

I’ll interrupt here to add an illustrative photo, entitled “Mamma drives.” This in response to the many requests you’ve lodged in the comments section:


“Now…on to the three-point hitch. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to round up the Rabbit (name changed to protect the innocent) to help put the brush hog on. Often I can do it by myself but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. So….I really would recommend that you look into a quick disconnect attachment. (You can find these at Pape). All you have to do is back the tractor up to the attachment and it clicks right on. Invaluable if Larry wants to do some work and Jane is not around. I don’t happen to have one of these but I wish I did.”

You’ll note in the above photo that we haven’t yet secured a “quick disconnect” attachment. Thus our little brush hog (the green thingy behind the tractor) follows us faithfully everywhere we go.

“And, while you are there, why not pick up a blade? I know you are going to have another course of gravel laid down in your driveway area. With your new blade and the help of your bucket you can spread it yourself to the never-ending admiration of your friends and neighbors. And what about a big ol’ snowstorm? Somebody has to plow the driveway.

“The forks, of course, can be used for many things. I envision that as you continue to clean up the dead trees around your place you haul the logs to a central location for bucking and splitting. If that doesn’t appeal then buy some railroad ties and move them from place to place–even if you don’t need them.”

We particularly enjoy the thought of buying railroad ties to move around, in the event that we ever, ever get through moving logs around. In last week’s edition I posted a photo of the latest set of logs to be moved. Unfortunately, due to the astonishing rainfall we’ve had in the last weeks, the pasture where it lies is deep clay mud, covered lightly by overgrazed thatch. Any attempt to drive the tractor to the log would probably result in a very embarrassing tilted, sunk green machine awaiting rescue come spring.

In closing, I’m posting another, very rare, photo of your author standing before Muddy Creek’s latest artistic tableau, Trees and Water:


Yes, that is a sock on my hand. I make no apology.

Huge thanks to “TED” for his enormous, enlightening, contribution to this post.


Woke up this morning and found an e-note from Mary, New York Sister, asking how we had survived Portland’s great flood crisis. Huh? “Streets turned into creeks,” she reported. This Portland? I looked out the window. Traffic as per normal. No boats motoring down 14th. “When your phone went straight to message, I assumed your power was out.” No. Power just fine.

Turns out, of course, there was flooding, of the worst kind, that is, sewer lines overflowing. But we didn’t know, left our cocoon up here on the 7th floor, and drove to the farm, it being Wednesday.

Some storms down there, apparently, too. Check these photos out:


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The odd thing is that we’d been looking for some fallen oak with which to make a fireplace mantle, or small tables, something from our own wood. So far, everything that’s already down was too degraded, but this was a healthy-seeming tree uprooted and upended by its less-sturdy neighbor. This, however, is way too high a price for a bit of prideful whimsy. Another 200 years to replace this fellow.

But the mission, this Wednesday, was the meeting with Jarod (F&W), Donna (OWEB) and Steve (Consultant). We set out cross country to show Donna our streams. She was proposing we may qualify for a $15,000 grant to help fence these streams.

We climbed the terrain West from the driveway and came to a spot I’d never seen before. Basically, a mini Grand Canyon carved into the hillside. Water rushed along the canyon floor — okay, I am exaggerating a bit, but the thing is really impressive. Donna apparently thought so too, as she turned to Jarod with the comment that perhaps we should be thinking about the larger, comprehensive grant. How big is “larger” we don’t know, but it’s clear that 15 thou isn’t going to tame that stream. Last week I said we’d named it the “Little Sometimes.” This course will therefore have to be known as the South Fork of the L.S.

We followed the stream to its confluence with the main channel, across the cow-trampled landscape. Treacherous going, crossing tributaries you could see and just sloshing through high water along the old sheep fence and down to Llewellyn. We didn’t hike clear down to Muddy, but did transverse the future vernal-pools site, across to the woods, up the hill and back to their cars parked halfway down the driveway. They left after the hour and a half walk, agreeing that Donna and Jarod would put their heads together. She’d like, she said, to bring an engineer out to the site to consider water gaps for the planned rotationally-grazed cows.

Jarod is a lovely young man. Very soft-spoken, bright as hell, and yet, every now and then, he’s so funny you can’t help falling in love with him. We walked together at one point, he and I, talking about the bluebirds we could see in the oak tree tops. They’re eating the mistletoe berries, he explained. I asked about placing the birdhouses, and he told me his thinking on the subject. You put two houses on fence posts, 7 to 10 feet apart. Not facing one another,of course. Then, if a sparrow sets up shop in one house, a second sparrow will not occupy the other. This space is now available for a bluebird, should she like the neighborhood, and apparently she likes sparrows just fine. But if two bluebirds each want one of the houses, that’s fine too. So this works out well. We’ll put Amy and Alli’s houses in one neighborhood, and position Charlie and Will’s houses in the next settlement. And if Andrew puts his together and ships it north, we’ll have quite the community.

Steve is also a wonder. He said he had this great idea while unable to sleep the night before. We could uses a system of damming the streams with a weir system. This will allow us to store water for the cows in the pastures not crossed by the streams, accessed with the help of a nose pump. A fairly infelicitous name, but self explanatory? And on the subject of “salmonoids,” my mistake. The word is salmonid, accent on the second syllable, referring in our case to cutthroat trout. He and Jarod both claim to see small trout and even salmon fry all the time in such waters, though Larry remains a fish-denier. A nice Ted Talk about the process how and why the fish leave Muddy Creek, stuff themselves with the flooded invertebrates, and go home large enough to deter the bass looking for lunch.

Backing up, Larry and I had wanted to start burning one of our slash piles in the morning, but were unable to get ignition. We’d started the project before the Agency folks arrived and were chagrined to discover that we had no matches. Nor had the builders. Our car doesn’t even have a cigarette lighter, which had been one bright idea. Into town to buy one of those propane lighter gizmos you use on your votive candles. Very flimsy, but it did the job of catching the paper on fire. Not so the oak. Hmm. Engineering required. Must build a better burn pile, I guess. That will have to be another day.

You see from the photos that the weather was sunny, albeit a bit chill. Today? Thunderstorm and deluge. The builders are putting up the siding on the house, so not sure how much will get done until this spell of weather breaks. Larry is very eager to climb aboard Buck-the-Tractor and git to mowin’ them weeds. Especially after having the green light from Jarod on that project. And now, see above, we have another vast job for the power saw.

A sweet letter from Ursel today (Hello, Ursel!). Who suggests that farmers rest in the winter. Guess we didn’t get that memo. But, rain? Can’t mow in the rain, so we do get to chill for a while after all.


December. Haven’t been to the farm in 10 days, and the last visit was just a fly-by on the way to Calistoga, CA, where we celebrated Thanksgiving with Peter and Jenny’s families. Missing David, but Hawaii too far for him and Caroline to fly for the days of the holiday. We brought bird houses for the grandkids to assemble, which they painted and decorated to be placed on the farm next spring.

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So today was our opportunity. On the way south the sun joined us just south of Salem, and the colors of the blueberry stems, almost purple but not quite, the new greening grass fields, filbert trees a gentle nutmeg, all under a blue sky called for a poetry of description I don’t possess. I’ll just say we were happy to be alive, listening to the songs I need to learn for the upcoming “Adult Band Camp.” This is not as racy as the title suggests. Okay, it’s not racy at all in any way.

We unlocked the gate and drove to the house, anticipating our first look at the new siding. But wait! That’s not the color it’s supposed to be! Taupe?

“Just pre-primed,” Larry assures me.

Humph. Supposed to be gray. Well, never mind.

We’re meeting with Jarod and Steve and the woman, Donna, from OWEB on Wednesday to talk about a grant to fence off the streams carving their way to Muddy Creek. These bodies of water are marked on maps, but un-named. Therefore, we will name the largest stream The Little Sometimes Creek. (Have to tell you that “sometimes” is now, as I’ll demonstrate later.)

We’re also, providentially meeting with Matt Jones, Fence Guy, to sign a contract. He tells us they’ll start just after the first of the year. We’ll fence the length of the driveway and around the house, as well as the banks of the creeks. The idea is to keep the cows off these streams, and to plant willow and Douglas spirea to reclaim the habitat for birds and other aquatic creatures. In fact, we recently learned that a study of farmland waterways in the watershed claims that salmonoids have been found even in the irrigation ditches around the area. They will surely love our improved streams, even though Larry refuses to believe in their existence in Muddy Creek. He also refuses to believe in Santa Claus, so there we are.

Now I’m going to show you a photo, just to keep your interest: We’ll call this the “Before” shot.


We had work to do in the barn, so left the house and drove to the barn. Changed into our boots, found our gloves, and attacked the 6 cribs remaining to be cleaned. This is honestly a nasty job, but it feels darn good to have accomplished it. We’ll see if we feel like inviting more sheep in there to be shorn after all our hard work. Larry manned the tractor, shoving the crap out back of the barn where we hope the rain will turn it into fertilizer. Of course, it’s already fertilizer, but not in manageable form.

While he continued to putter, I decided to go for a walk to photograph all the lovely colors. Unfortunately, the sun had disappeared and the luminous green moss on the oaks was now just green moss on the oaks. Took a photo anyway:


And I just wandered, enjoying the small sounds of the water, the cry of our red tail, the feel of oncoming rain in the air. I found a new waterway, which I’ll show the agency folks on Wednesday. A buried pipe, a sink hole. I don’t know if this is good news or bad with respect to allowing the passage of water across the property to reclaim it’s natural course. Will learn more next week:

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Close your eyes. Next year, or maybe the year beyond, this will look like this, the “AFTER” shot:


Just kidding! This is a photo from the VRBO in Calistoga where we spent our Thanksgiving holiday. But we really are planning on a swing.