Sitting here today at the dining room table, the breeze pushing the door to tap gently against the stop, waiting to hear that Larry and the trailered ATV have arrived safely at the dealer’s. Hmm. June 2 is a long time gone!
Shortly after the last post, a man with a tractor and a brace of bulldozers arrived to discuss what we’d like to have done with his giant machines. This John is Ryan-the-Cow-Guy’s friend or neighbor, apparently with some time to sell. Sure! First job would be to doze down the cattle furrows on the hillside just above the big creek below the barn. You’ve seen the way the animals create cross-hatched paths deep into steep slopes if you’ve ever driven Eastern Oregon? Check.
Next, flatten the old roadbed between the barn and Llewllyn so that the area can be safely mowed. Dig into those huge burn piles, sort out the scrap metal and unburned logs, saw and split the logs into firewood. Reignite the fires. No, Larry doesn’t want to buy a bulldozer. I think.
Then it was the tractor’s turn. Although the cows had eaten down most of the area west of the driveway, they loved to hang around the heat there from the still-smoldering burns. They didn’t seem to mind John and his tractor disc-ing the back 40. The diagnosis which mandated this approach was rattail fescue, which was prospering amid all the tansy and thistle. The cows apparently were fine with eating the stuff, but they don’t put on weight properly with this diet. Also invasive, rattail chokes out the more desirable, forage fescues. The tansy and thistle succumbed, at least for this season, to the broadleaf spray, but the way to control rattail is to knock it down before it can set seed. The pasture looks orderly now, like someone cares, but we’re warned that the winds of summer will turn the land into a mini-dust bowl.
Meanwhile, we’re in a race to get some grass and flowers instead of mud and weeds around the house before our big party on the 25th. The landscape guys are working furiously, at least on the days when they decide to come. Apparently another client is more important, and we must wait our turn. Annoying, as we’ve been promised and promised. So, long days and a grumpy crew, but it appeared that it would come together, for the most part. And speaking of dust, day after day, Peterson Landscape grinds and churns our dirt, of which they disapprove. Too acidic. Nothing can grow here. They have to add lime and compost. They have to contour and shape and dig holes for the trees and trenches for the watering lines. No point in cleaning anything in advance of the party and so the layers of dust accrete and we have to remind each other that this is something we called upon ourselves.
We have worried all month that it will rain on the great day, but as the 25th neared, we were alarmed by the forecasts that we’d have 100 degree heat that Sunday. Okay, start worrying about that. My band, Puddin’ River, will play, and will we all faint from the heat? By the way, it’s not, of course, MY band, but that’s how I talk about it. Yeah. My band. Just casual, like, maybe someone will ask what I play and I can say, in an offhand way, banjo. Ha! So cool!
So, on the Saturday night before the party, we are awakened by a strange noise coming from the shed. Investigation leads to discovery. The well ran dry. Like the song. Whatcha gonna do when the well runs dry? Damn. We forgot to worry about running out of water. Sixty people arriving in the morning, people who will be wanting to use in-house plumbing for their toilet needs.
I am lucky in having two take-no-prisoners women in my family. The first, my daughter-in-law Allison, has been heroic in the lead-up to the party with beautiful invitations, signage, advice, though she wouldn’t be able to come to the party. The second, my daughter, Jenny, commandeered the phone Sunday morning and managed to secure a tank-load of precious water delivered to the house on that day at noon. Whew!
So the party was great. The house and garden looked perfect, and I’ll show you a photo to prove it if, at some point, my computer will allow me to add same. We had mowed a portion of the pasture for a parking lot, and Will, our grandson, patrolled the field with a huge golf umbrella to keep the sun off. No-one got stuck, shocked by the fence, or stepped in cow residue, so far as I know.
The next day, Peter, who had flown up for the event, and I picked the pie cherries. Larry built a frame, covered it with netting, and we managed to protect our whole crop. Pounds and pounds of the tiny cherries, which I had to pit and individually freeze. They look gorgeous, now collected into plastic bags to await their destiny. Okay, maybe not pounds AND pounds, but a lot!
Now, about the ATV on the trailer. The water crisis wasn’t enough. The ATV took itself out of service, and we have learned how much we depend on this little buggy. Unfortunately, the dealer doesn’t pick up and deliver, but Jenny, again, discovered that Triple A does. Larry had been planning to rent a trailer, but now that wouldn’t be necessary. Wait a minute. Triple A only tows licensed on-road vehicles, we discover this morning. Is your ATV so licensed? No. We rent a trailer and have the experience of loading a flat-bed trailer behind the truck. Larry drove off toward I-5 and I found another something to worry about.
Forward a day: The search for a well-digger is underway. The best we can do so far is end of July for an attempt at a new well. Ah. So we learn what it’s like to experience drought here in practically the wettest spring on record in the Willamette Valley. Kind of quaint. Water delivered by tanker truck. Short showers. Hand wash the dishes. Take laundry off site (aka Portland) And forget about watering all the new plantings we hastened to secure before our party. Take note. Lesson in hubris. We don’t just get to clap our hands and this little house in the country with an apple tree descends from heaven upon the land, etc.
We’re working on it. Meanwhile, the great tansy war goes on. We spent this morning whacking the heads off a year’s crop of the horrid yellow-flowered invasive, poisonous, prolific species. “We just pull ours,” say our friends with property, “bring on the Cinnabar moth, not a big deal.” Maybe not, unless you have a hundred acres of the stuff. We did try to pull it, but no luck, not out of our bad, acidic, cow-trampled clay dirt. Not enough Cinnabars in the county to eat it down. So, one of us grabs the stalks, the other mans the shears, and we stuff it into bags for later burning. No ATV, so we drive Bob to the various sites, and the steadfast truck lurches and wallows and gets the job done. Go Bob!
Jarod and Nate, of Fish and Wildlife dropped by to examine the field which is to be planted this fall with milkweed and lupine for the butterflies. They were dismayed to find that the field of oats was, in fact, a field of Astoria bent-grass, about to blossom and set seed. Blame it on the wet spring, the starlings which ate the oat seeds, maybe our bad dirt, but, we’re back to square one for our wildflower garden. Fish and Wildlife can’t break the soil without obtaining tribal approval for disturbing potential heritage sites, so they can’t disc the stuff as per the pasture I mentioned above. We can, but our disc guy is no longer available, and Jarod wants that grass dead and gone before it goes to seed. F and W are able to mow, however, so that will happen next Monday. The resulting thatch will have to be sprayed out next fall, the land disced at that point, harrowed, and finally planted with our expensive Stinger seeds, which have spent the year in our shed.
But by next Monday, we will be effectively on our way to London for a long-planned visit with son David and his wife, Caroline. We actually fly away on Wednesday, but can’t get back to the farm before that afternoon. Great time to leave, don’t you agree? No water, a well to dig, important conservation jobs to be done, bye, bye. Our watering needs will be met with trucked-in water for the next two weeks, and when we return, much refreshed, we get back to work. I love it! (No, seriously, I do. I love this place.)