Question: What could we possibly do to repay the White/Davises for all their help, without which we’d still be sitting around our PDX living room dreaming about “a little house, etc.” Here’s a good idea! Let’s offer to deliver a load of our copious firewood supply to their cottage at the beach!

Okay, how are we going to make this happen. We have the wood, split, stacked in the barn, ready to go. Load up Bob and drive over to Manzanita with it? Ugh! No offense, but a trip over the mountains in smelly old Bob? Well, rent a U-Haul trailer? Hmm. No hitch on the car. Rent a whole truck?

Nope. Problem solved in a way you might expect. Gordon has a trailer, a hitch, and he can get it to the Corvallis, load it, and be on the way.

They came, with the trailer, to spend a couple of days with us at the farm. The house — I love this little house — somehow blossoms with warmth and color in the company of family and friends, and we learned that early when the Schefflers became our first overnight guests. (Excepting Peter and Andrew, of course, but we don’t think of them as “guests.” It just becomes their other house when they’re here.)

The plan was that we’d rent a wood splitter for the day, and the men would work on the latest pile of sawn oak on the barn floor. Wasn’t supposed to be an all day job, but with Gordon, there’s no stopping when there’s still work to be done. (I know. One doesn’t usually pay someone back by putting them to work in a cold barn for 8 hours.)

Meanwhile, Vik and I would spend the day on one of our cooking projects. Formerly, we’ve made tamales, kimchi, pickles-of-course, what else? This time, fruit cake. Stop! I know what you’re thinking. Aunt Edith’s block of Christmas cheer she pulled out of the closet from back in ’08 when she visited Harry and David’s in Medford on her bus tour of the West Coast. No. Ours are elegant, dark and rich with molasses, citrus, spices. Maybe our best project ever. So far.

Then there was the Good Will tutorial. Vik asserts that the secret to a successful GW gleaning is to open one’s mind to the universe of the possible. Do not go to an outlet determined to find the pink blouse, the set of Norwegian Christmas plates, the music box you seek. Corvallis has a reasonable outlet, though perhaps not the demographic to assure a rich selection. Too many college students, not enough aging people-of-means to create a good donation base. But we did our best. Me, I was looking for a vintage rocking chair for the yellow bedroom upstairs. Mistake. Don’t go looking for something specific, remember? I did find a pair of yummy warm leggings, still in the original package. Unopened. Score!

Meanwhile, Larry and Gordon busied themselves adding rheostats to the various light switches around the house, and, most important, hanging the huge iron V in the front hall, and Rodeo Girl, a Gregory Grennon painting, in the dining room. Not at all easy, requiring much manly knowledge about push screws, levels, and, ultimately, velcro.

While standing in the kitchen, we noticed an ATV working the land in front of the house. The seeds were being planted! Not the heritage seeds you learned of earlier, but a cover crop of oats. We would graze these this spring, then disc them in. Harrow, lime, then in the fall, plant the real crop of wild flowers. It’s still pretty muddy, and this was perhaps the only opportunity to get the seeds in the ground. The ATV did get bogged down at one point, and we thought he’d need a tractor rescue (a little treat for Larry and Gordon), but Ryan or his employee managed to maneuver the little rig out of trouble. Should have known — these are true farm boys, know what they’re doing.

The next morning, while we were celebrating the success of the seeding operation, a flock of starlings arrived for breakfast. Wait. I just Googled starlings, and learned that a flock is a murmuration. Nice word, but. Invasive. Destructive. And they’re eating all our seeds! Larry tried his erstwhile successful strategy of barking at unwelcome visitors of the animal kingdom. (No, he doesn’t bark at crowds of people or folks he doesn’t admire, so just relax.) The barking didn’t work, nor did shouting, hand-clapping. Slamming the door did cause the birds to rise, circle, then reform into a carpet of black frustration. Ryan said he planted a hundred pounds of seed per acre, and really, how many birds would it take to eat a fourteen hundred pounds of seed? And what will we do when it comes time to plant the expensive heritage seed? A problem for Fish and Wildlife, I guess.

So here’s a toast to Vik and Gordon, with thanks for so much help, advice, inspiration. Cheers!