I saw the lightning, and the crash of thunder that followed instantaneously knocked the four of us out of our chairs, there on the bucolic back porch. Yes, we had seen the thunderheads building over the coast range, but what the heck? The sky overhead was blue, the beer nicely chilled, and we were laughing about the day’s adventures. But wait a minute, I’ve leaped over last Thursday — a lot stuff to report.

Larry and I had come to the farm for a quick, 24-hour stay to meet the all-important techies who would install the TV, the sound system (Sonos), and the actual dish thing itself outside somewhere. We stopped in Corvallis to get a sample quart of paint for the barn (Shaker Red, a perfect barnish red-brown). I began by painting a couple of swatches while Larry hooked up the power wash equipment to finish the necessary clean-up. Me, I attacked the berry brambles attaching themselves to the siding, in an uneven contest with the thorns decorating every cane. Ugh. But work came to a halt when we noticed the first van rumbling up the driveway.

This was the inside audio-vis crew, and we were happy to quit actual farm work and supervise the installation. That’s a joke. Even without our help, the job took the rest of the day. The funny part came at the end, when Tech-Guy One attempted to teach me how to use the remote. Use your imagination.

But before that finale, the Dish Guy arrived to put the saucer thing up on the exterior siding. Seems Larry’s wonderful plan, by which we had a tube laid under the drive to carry the cable from a remote post on the orchard, would not work. No, the signal could not travel half so far. Yes, he was sure. He tried to accommodate our esthetic by positioning the disc here and there, but nowhere would do but the very near side of the garage. Quite the first thing to notice on arrival at our home. Simply charming. But do we want TV or not? (That might depend on whom you ask, but the answer was yes.)

Here it is in all its loveliness. Welcome to our home.

Somewhere around then, Ryan called to say he was in the neighborhood. I believe you will be hearing a quite a bit about Ryan, our new Cow Guy, or so we hope. He has agreed to disc the 14 acres for Fish and Wildlife, and it appears he will work with us on development of a good grazing program. Sidebar: I was happy to learn that he runs cow-calf pairs. If I understood him correctly, he keeps the mom cows, breeds them, assists with calving, and when the youngsters are weaned, turn the entire herd out to pasture. Thus, we may enjoy the sight of actual calves? I do not know at what point calves are weaned, but we may find out. Ryan keeps his animals on grass for their entire life span, no feedlot for these fellows. Has a contract for grass-fed beef with New Seasons. That seems good, doesn’t it?

Back inside, we were trained on the use of the speakers. The Sonos was downloaded to our phones. The TV was in place, the picture quite wonderful, the options to watch all the football one could hope to enjoy in place. Wow. But the vans drove off, Larry and I had to hustle to make our reservation at Gathering Together for dinner so we never had the opportunity to try out the amazing shiny new toy. You think we’ll be able to work it when we come back?



Looks like we’ll have to work on that focus problem. But time has passed, and now we’re back at the beginning of this post, out on the porch, the lightning strike?

The family has assembled to install Amy (granddaughter) into her dorm at the U of O. She and her mom, Allison, flew into Portland to finish shopping for the necessities of dorm life on Tuesday. Today, Peter arrived, and we rode in convoy to Corvallis, on the way to Eugene. Larry is at Lake Chelan on a golf outing, and Jenny, who had come to assist with the undertaking, is on her way home to Seattle. Now you know where everyone is, and I’m going to tell you a little story about the day so far. Jen and I had driven to Starbucks to pick up coffee for all, and parked just down the street from the shop. Should we plug the meter? Nah, just going to be a minute. So we didn’t. Jenny teasing me for the bit of rules-following apostasy. Cute. Then she, with Allison and Amy, went off to Nordstrom for the final burst of shopping. Parked illegally (though they misunderstood the signage). Got towed. Fined. This bit of rules-breaking cost my darling Jenny $258, not including the taxi ride to the lot, which Allison picked up. How’s that for karma? Follow the rules, people!

There has been some conversation about whether I’ll be comfortable staying here alone overnight. I think so, but it won’t be put to the test this time, as Larry is due to arrive in an hour. I’d walked down the road to secure the gate before dark fell and was stunned to see that the great, vast field of blackberries has been obliterated from the side of the barn. Gone! The whole patch! This is huge. I saw fences I didn’t know existed. There’s a great tangle of some farm implement, I mean a 10-yard long twist of scrap metal. Amazing. A quick phone call to Larry and I learned that Brady had been here, offered to “get rid of the lot.” Larry thought he meant get rid of the mounds he’d sprayed earlier.
Good job, Brady!

Now I’m going to put this post to sleep and go out to find the Milky Way before the moon shows up this evening.


Just as I sat to write this blog, a note flashed across my screen from Donna Schmitz to say that we were ranked No. 2 against 9 other applications for the conservation grant from OWEB. Wow! I know that the bread isn’t yet buttered, but this is such good news that I have to celebrate anyway. Here’s the application description, which is a lovely portrait of the “Wood.” You’ll note that the property is actually 101 acres in size, but where’s the poetry in that?:

“This 101 acre property located 5 miles south of Corvallis, Oregon contains a mosaic of habitat types, including Oregon white oak savanna and woodlands, wetland prairie, and riparian forest associated with the Muddy Creek floodplain. Perennial and seasonal streams cross the property, and Muddy Creek borders the property line to the east. Proposed project will install fencing to protect the streams and wetlands from livestock grazing, stream crossings to protect stream banks from erosion, and solar pumping facility and troughs to prevent livestock from accessing the streams. These areas are in poor condition and lack a diversity of native plants because cattle have grazed in all these habitat types. The landowner will adopt a prescribed grazing methodology, reducing the number of cattle and rotating cattle through various designated pasture areas. Project partners include landowner, NRCS, USFWS, and Benton SWCD.”

I did say that I’d include photos in my next post, so here’s one of my favorites: (As always, be sure to click on the photo to enlarge it to viewable size.)


On the left we have Steve Bergen, a friend of the CA Viehls, and particularly of Charlie and Amy, whose swim coach/lifeguarding boss he has been these last 10 years or so. Seems he’s an alum of UC Davis, which had the opportunity of playing the mighty Ducks in the opening game of the ’16 season. So he and Charlie had a bet about the outcome of that head-butt, and of course, took the opportunity to come stay at the farm before and after. Too bad about the UC Whatevers, but hey, the Ducks? Who’d take that bet?

Peter is sandwiched between Steve and Charlie, who is driving the ATV, which seems to be a rite of passage for the Viehl grandkids. Big smiles all around.

I have another photo for you, pursuant to the subject of conservation. Last weekend, while Larry power-washed the barn’s windows (if you can call them windows), I wandered a bit around the lower property behind the barn. Followed a cow path along a waterway (now dry) until I came to the western edge of the savanna. And found this Martian-like area, which should give you a good idea of the devastation we here in the Wood call cow-trample. Not a technical term, of course, but apt:


I actually had to edit this photo, which came across to the blog sideways, though you would not be able to appreciate the directionality of what you see if it were upside down.


This one helps to define the scene, I suppose. Must be a seasonal pond, I don’t know for sure. Anyway, multiply this by 99 acres, throw on some blackberries, some tansy and some Astoria bent grass and you have some idea of the job ahead. Fingers crossed we get that grant!

Now about power washing. It’s been my ambition to get the barn painted a nice brownish red barn-color. But first, must wash years of mold and neighboring topsoil, blown in from the north, off the siding. Now colored a nice baby-poop yellow, so noted by my friend Vik. I wanted to do the job (I am Woman!) and actually did get the siding fairly clean. Whew, hard work! But I couldn’t reach the windows without standing on a ladder and was reluctant to do so. Larry bravely undertook that part of the job, and here he is:


I know, what am I talking about? Windows? That upper material doesn’t appear translucent, but per removal of the crud, does let light into the interior. And, sorry Larry, it’s a dumb picture, but you’re my hero anyway.

And to close the circle, about cow trample. It was my job to wash the north side porch decking before our last visitors. Got the hose out, doing well, until I reached the space outside the french doors from our bedroom. I’d noted these marks all along, supposed they were just dirt, but no. Cow or cows had been up on the porch, milling about, cow trampling on the wooden deck. Permanently embossed, they are, these bovine footprints. Well, I take the attitude that it would take an artisan many hours to lovingly paint this graphic design we now enjoy. Lucky us! Got it for free! But what, one might wonder, drew those cows onto the porch in the first place?

Come on down and see us. Set a spell. Coffee’s on, it’s a beautiful morning.



Dear Readers — hello? Anybody out there? I see it’s been two months since we last talked, and, well, I’d thought that I’d reached the end of this project: Two Old People Buy a Farm. (Not that we aren’t still old, and still farming.) Be that as it may, I find that writing is a hard habit to break. And we are still very farm-challenged, and Larry just backed the tractor into the fence, and the freezer doesn’t work and all the ice cream melted. So, if only to keep a record of this adventure, I have booted up the lap top and greet anyone who stumbles across my world-famous blog. (Ha)

I’m speaking to you from the kitchen island of our little-farm-house-with-apple tree. The new microwave chimes a pleasant tune, long after the coffee has been warmed and the appliance turned off. This could become annoying! Last week we visited the Verizon people in Portland and purchased a “jet pack,” a little miracle that lets us have internet here at the farm.

These’s a lot to tell you, but first I need to back up a month or so and start with the Scheffler’s visit. The first guests to spend the night, it was a kind of shake-down cruise. The railing still not up across the second floor space (open to the first) or down the stairs, a night the upstairs bedroom seemed to dangerous to offer our Germans. We tucked them in to our bedroom on the first floor and said goodnight. We had, however, neglected to warn them about the locking system on all the interior doors, so poor Epi became the unwitting subject of my first blog story of the summer.

It’s dark, he’s in strange territory with only the bark of a coyote or screech of an owl to break the night silence. (As opposed to the crash of garbage trucks emptying a bar’s collection of bottles, the laughter of the bar’s patrons going home, a car alarm, you get the picture.) So Epi tiptoes into the bathroom and quietly shuts the door. When he tries to leave, he finds that he has locked himself in. But how did he do that? He turned no lever or handle. The under-cabinet lights go on by motion detection, perhaps the door locks in the same way? He turns out the light. No. still locked. He considers the window. It is just the ground floor, but the window is far too narrow to provide escape. Upstairs, we snore in oblivion to our guest’s rising discomfort. He calls to his sleeping wife for help. Of course she has no idea, but together they manage to discover the tiny lever on the knob plate which is so easily tripped by accident. All is well, Epi can return to bed, their giggles subside and they fall asleep.

Perfect. Ursel is my “third sister” and together we all, Viehls and Schefflers, set off on a cruise of the Inland Passage to Alaska. While I was not born under a water sign, and do not particularly find myself at home on a boat, we did have an amazing trip, another in our series of adventures across the planet.

But now, time to return to the subject of this project. At the moment, Larry is outside fixing a system of hooks and cord to fashion a clothes line. This being the subject of much hilarity to people, most people that is, who find the convenience of a clothes drier driven by electricity more than adequate for all laundry needs. No need to go all Laura Ingalls Wilder and make life as difficult as possible. Oh well. I make no apologies, and my family will appreciate the sun-dried sheets to come.

Speaking of electricity, Larry has a site which has informed us that our solar panels on the barn have generated 2516 kWh, which is equal to removing 10 vehicles, having planted 43 trees and has saved 1320 kg of Carbon dioxide production. Not quite sure how all that computes, but it sounds pretty good! Conservation at work on the Hundred Acre Wood!

To catch up, the next visitors to arrive were Jenny and Co. The railing up, the guests in the guest bedroom, the grandkids up in the “Chick Room” over the garage. Jenny and Alli and I picked apples and made apple crisp. Very L.I.Wilder, we farm women in the kitchen. “Yes, but did you get the recipe on line?” one of my skeptics asked. Ah. Fair enough. No, we didn’t have our little jet pack at the time, but all bets are now off.

The kids, after a quick tutorial, drove off in the Ranger, the ATV which doesn’t, at the moment, have a name other than the generic. Will? You’re up, buddy. A name? They were gone for a couple of hours exploring, escaping, and when they shut it down to wander along the creek, and couldn’t get it restarted, they just texted dad. Kids today!

I had to leave for band practice the next Morning, but everyone else stayed back. Yes, I was jealous, but the situation was of my own making. Larry and Tom and Will cranked up the tractor, name of Buck, and set about correcting a lapse in the perimeter security of the farm. The fence along the road where Mark unloads and loads his calves wasn’t rebuilt, leaving a two-tractor wide gap. There are uncounted numbers of old farm gates scattered about the property, so the guys found a couple, somehow balanced them on the tractor, or dragged them along the road (?) and wired them together. Great fun, I think, for all of them.

Enough for today. Sorry, but I can’t send photos this time. My photo library is stored off line and I left that lovely device in Portland. Don’t have connecting cable for my iMini or phone, so this is a text-only post. Will do better next time!