First, because we can’t drive the truck across the mud to the stack of wood. Larry proved that in an earlier attempt, during which he but narrowly escaped the indignity of another rescue tow by Tyrone and Co. The tractor should be be able to muck across onto the grass, around the orchard, and over to the pile of cut logs.

Second, because it would be possible to load the logs into the bucket, not possible to hoist them over the edge of the truck bed. These fellows, some of them 18 inches to two feet in diameter, a couple of feet long, wet oak? Peter could lift them, and did, but the other two of us? Ha.


But mostly it was just insanely fun to drive the loaded tractor over to the truck on the road, lift the bucket and dump the load into the truck bed. (While I did get to drive the truck, the boys owned the tractor. As, on occasion, a log would tumble out onto the tractor’s hood, I didn’t complain.)

Therefore, the plan was executed and the wood moved to the barn. Well, not without some ingenuity in crafting a plank bridge to span the mud soup, and stealing a few buckets of gravel from a gas line excavation. Of course it rained. But I was proud of us.

“Pretty sweet operation, huh?” I say to Tyrone.

“What? Your kid does all the work while you stand around waving your arms?”

He meant that kindly. And Peter was awesome. He is one cool person and you are lucky if you know him.

So we had rented an hydraulic splitter from a shop down the road. Seventy-two dollars for 24 hours, and don’t be late or there’s a fee. This thing rolls down the road behind old Buck smooth as ever you please, and Larry was right to decline the offered insurance against road accidents, whatever. We set up in the nice, clean barn, doors opened at both end, ear plugs attempted and rejected as useless. Those cribs we’d cleaned make fine ricks for storing the split wood, by the way. Photo to follow.

This splitter was a big deal. The maul travels up and down a tube and splits the wood with steady pressure. Nothing explosive or dramatic. Except it was pretty dramatic to see one of the above- described behemoths split apart. We couldn’t help laughing at the power and efficiency of the machine. Of course, not all the wood was straight grained. Lots of knots, twists, spirals, and those pieces, while they gave in to the inevitable, didn’t make easily stackable fire wood. Still, we estimated that we put up two cords in the two days.


But there was the power saw, and there were those un-cut logs lying alongside the fence, and Peter was on a mission. While Larry and I tried to burn more of the slag piles, he marched through the downed wood and looked with some longing at the huge monsters cut last summer when Shonnards took out half of the homestead tree.


They’re back. They look forlorn in the rain, caked with mud, spooked by any approach. (I just wanted to take their photo, though I also harbored a desire to hose them down and offer them in a nice bed of straw somewhere.) They are just babies still, and have spread out across the fields, so I have no idea how many of them are spending a few months with us. If it ever stops raining, Larry would like to do some mowing, take down the spent stalks of weeds that the cows wouldn’t eat last year. I see the land through my vision of the future, but honestly, it looks pretty ill-used at the moment. Some sunshine would help!

The house is almost complete, the conservation and habitat restoration are underway, and it’s been a year and a half since we launched this project. How are we doing? We’re like, well, kind of old, you know? Last week we went to a memorial service for a man for whom Larry’d worked all those years. He looked around at his former colleagues and noted that they’re all a bit beat up and weathered. “Jesus. The last ten years must be hell,” he commented. “Look at them. They’re us.”

But I say “So?” We all know that the last thing may be just around the corner. Something hurts and guess what? When we started we said that we didn’t care. We have that day, this day. Nothing else matters. But of course it does. You fall in love again, with life, with the cows, with the fawn lilies. Repeat after me: We have tomorrow, we have at least this. Let’s live.



Note to Charlie: Have to say that the zip line is incomplete, as are the ATV race track and golf holes you’ve suggested. You’d better get up here and have a word with your grandfather about this delay.

Meanwhile, just to give you all the idea: This is Muddy Creek from the bridge across it (him? her? Is there a convention about the gender of streams?) on Llewellyn. Muddy all right, with little respect for boundaries.


We’ve gone down to meet with Donna Schmitz of OWEB, Jarod of F&W, and Steve Smith. On his arrival, Steve handed me a cardboard box. A present! he said. Inside were what appeared to be desiccated earthworms, but were, in fact, milkweed roots. Asclepia, to be precise. We are to plant them somewhere, sit back, and wait for the monarch butterflies to visit. A little research suggests that the plant will want good drainage and full sun. (Keep that thought about good drainage as we proceed today. And full sun? Ha!) Seems asclepia is a little like “good” tansy-ragwort. That is, wildly poisonous, the sap highly irritating to the touch. “Do not get in the eye,” says Google. For sure. Seems this plant is the monarch’s only food, and they depend on the toxic bitterness to dissuade birds from dining on them.

Donna and Jarod are preparing our application for a grant to fence the tributary streams on the property. It’s due in early April, but we’re not to expect to see any money until next year. That’s okay, we still have Mark’s cows this year, and while we’ll keep them away from the Muddy itself, they are free to trample the little streams one more year.

Larry and I pulled on our boots to walk Mark’s fence, to be sure the cows won’t be able to get into the oak copse, where the wild flowers are beginning to blossom. Here is a sample of Lemon Fawn Lily (nice name!)


It’s great fun to slosh through the wetland area down to the creek:



Yes, I was there, too:


Back at the house, Steve, a new friend to this report, was at work finding, then patching leaks in the line to the buried propane tank. Here’s where you should question the drainage any milkweed can hope to enjoy. Dave sure wasn’t. Said he’d slipped into the earlier-dug hole, up to his waist. (That was a little exaggerated, but I’m sure comprehensively unpleasant):


The finish carpenter, Dale, and Eric and Doug are busy inside putting up trim bits and pieces, wishing the rain would stop so they could put up the railing on the porches, do whatever outside jobs are in line for completion. Yeah, me too. Peter will be here for a few days next week to help his dad with some heavy lifting. Should be great fun. Bring your boots, Peter!


Playing catch-up today. Here’s last week’s adventure:

Buck-the-Tractor had his first look outside the barn since arrival. A nice day, and we had time to do some actual work around the place. So the barn, or edifice we call the barn, is as clean as we can manage, and we’ve done some preliminary pruning around the old home site, the nearby blackberrys have been sprayed and lean brownly clutching an assortment of farm fences in an impossible thicket. Time to tidy up.

The appendage securely attached to the tractor’s back end is a mower, and Larry wanted to have a practice run with the machine in the relatively safe, flat space at hand. I had read somewhere that a responsible farmer will walk a field before mowing, discing, tilling, whatever, and while Larry familiarized himself with the controls, I began to pace the area between the cement slab which formerly anchored a garage and the barn.

We’d known that the derelict house had been party central to bands of high school or college revelers, and that various souls had camped inside the barn and garage, so had already picked up bins full of trash. But what we hadn’t seen was all the glass and metal debris under the weeds. Now in winter, the weeds are low enough to expose all the treasure. Broken bottles, bottles buried in mud, scraps of metal, shards of old bleach bottles, broken toys. Obviously we couldn’t just run the mower over this tableau of misery.

Ugh. Poor land. Poor souls who huddled here, the rain beating down (in my imagination). The old saying: Foul your nest and move west? This is about as west as you can get. Here’s a quote from Andy Warhol: “I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.”

So let’s make some art!

The tractor rumbled over the uneven ground and it does look better. Larry succeeded in grinding some blackberry canes along a cement trough, but didn’t yet attempt the larger mass I described earlier. Next time, maybe.

A lovely patch of daffodils bloomed in a lake of vinca and I wanted to take some home. The vinca is about a foot and a half deep, covering what I had recently learned to expect, but I waded cautiously over to the flowers and cut a nice handful. As much as the glass and metal, I was concerned about slumbering snakes, but if I trod on any, they didn’t complain. Vinca, by the way, is invasive, non-native, and will have to go!

This brings me up to yesterday. We had a meeting scheduled with Applegate Gates to discuss a gate for our driveway. It will have to be controlled remotely from the house, and from our cell phones if we’re away from the farm. Merlin was the expert who came to talk with us, and he certainly seemed to know the answers to all our questions. We wanted the gates to swing inward upon entry, but the drive slopes upward at the chosen point. To accommodate the rise, the gates would have to be mounted at a silly-looking height off the ground at their posts. Okay, so the gates will swing outward toward an entering vehicle.

My friend Molly suggested that I’d better get my camera situation straightened out because this project is much better when illustrated. With that in mind, here are Merlin and Larry discussing placement:


How far from Llewellyn may the gate be sited? Fortunately, Merlin has a contact at Philomath Fire who would be able to tell us. His brother, in fact. Always good to rely on local contacts, we find! It seems that the distance is determined by the ability of a fire engine to pull completely off the road before encountering a gate. Merlin will let us know what he learns.

Here are some of the daffodils that have decorated this little quadrant of the property:


Everything looks better contained by our lovely new fence, or so we believe.

We went up to the house to see what the builders have accomplished in the days since Saturday. Dick was there working to put rock on the little shed. I had mentioned Cactus in an earlier post, and he and Dick are the masons. Dick is Cactus’ father, and, amazingly enough, Cactus is a grandfather. This has to make Dick the oldest human still laboring at the very demanding job of masonry. Never retire! Do what you love! You can see their work on this photo of our back porch:


Guess what. Remember I said that the cows weren’t coming back? It seems that they are. Jarod, of Fish and Wildlife said that he would very much like to have the animals for another year, and Mark agreed to continue with us. His electric fencing is already in place, necessitating the use of the forked stick to get us over the wire. We wanted to amble down and check on Muddy Creek, and were a bit shocked to see a giant machine rumbling over the flood plain. What the heck?


Here’s Bob, who drove the rig which loads the giant. A fertilizer spreader, as it turns out. Mark, Cow-Guy has decided to fertilize the land the cows will graze. On his dime, of course, but still. One might like to have been notified?

So here’s my take: I’m sad to see how the cows damage the land, and a little resentful that it’s being fertilized artificially. But just how naive can I be? The depths have not yet been plumbed. Of course Mark will act to maximize the growth of his animals. We want to use his animals, but he’s in his business to succeed. If we improve the land for forage, well and good, but meanwhile? Let’s just fertilize the thistle and tansy while we’re at it. I don’t know how this will balance at the end of the day, but per Andy Warhol, we’re trying!

Enough for one post! Time for dinner.