Remember those tires I told you about?


Kind of picturesque, huh? Green, mossy? Nestled into slimy mud 2 inches deep, filled with rotted leaves and dead mice? Okay, have you ever tried to empty an old tire that has been resting outside for decades-at-least? Can’t be done. The devilish shape means that the water et al just sloshes from one side of the ring to the other. So the homeowner, Larry in this case, has to deadlift the things out of their mud cradles into the ATV. Good thing he’s been working out — hey Aaron?

From the ATV into to Bob-the-Truck. All twenty-three of them.


And from Bob into the Coffin Butte landfill. Guess what? Tires cost $9.00 each to dump. Plus the environment fee, it was over 200 bucks to dispose of these things which SOME IDIOT dumped. I was all sensitive last week, tough being a farmer, etc. Now? Right. IDIOT. We now think it was probably the former owners of this property, not neighbors, who chose this route. And this is exactly where the spring seeps out of the ground to become Winter Creek.

While at the dump, a friendly man drove up to inquire about disposing of tires. Seems he’d been denied last month, and now had 40 plus derelicts on his property looking for a resting place. We chatted for a while about human nature, and when he drove off I saw the legend on the side of his truck: Hubby For Rent. Hmm. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the phone number!

From the dump we headed north to scout out a sign we’d seen advertising mint compost. Which Larry wants to have for his veggie garden. What we found was a sagging old barn, a couple of swayback horses, and no answer to the posted phone number. And next door, a 100 yard border fence made out of — old tires! Overgrown, of course, with blackberries and ivy and what not. So it seems we have a problem here, because not everyone will find such an inventive, if perfectly ugly, solution.

On to lunch, at a place we found in Albany by following our noses. Bricks and Mortar, great atmosphere, good food. Getting to like Albany for the restaurant scene there. Don’t raise your eyebrows at me. I’m serious. Better than Corvallis anyway.

Next day Larry spent playing golf. I don’t know why. He hates golf. I’d gotten an invitation from neighbor Terri to come muck about in the swamp on her property. Wow. There’s an invitation! She wanted to show me where the water becoming Tributary Creek crosses her land. “There’s a huge sink hole,” she promised, as inducement. So of course I accepted. Here’s what that looked like:


We could hear the creek as it neared our property, but couldn’t penetrate the thicket of blackberries. Terri had thoughtfully provided me with a pitch fork as walking stick which, I must say, I can’t recommend. But as I wasn’t too keen on stumbling into the sink hole, I was glad to have something to test the path ahead with when it was my turn to lead. We were joined by Darwin, a beautiful husky, who’d just had oral surgery to remove a broken tooth and was not his usual frisky self. Here he is by a piece of the stream we ultimately found:


Another nice day today! Larry spent it corralling some oak lengths from earlier projects, delivering them to the barn, and then burning some blackberry canes piled up since last fall. I went down to supervise the fire and found three baby somethings curled up, exposed, hearts beating. Voles probably, Larry said. Sure enough, a little gray furry creature flashed out of the leaves across my feet. But those babies? I didn’t want to just leave them to a slow, sunburned death. But couldn’t kill them, either. I kind-of buried them, thinking they live underground anyway, and maybe the mom will find them. I can believe that if I want to.

Earlier I had rescued a hummingbird who had come into the garage and couldn’t find the exit door, so it seems life on the farm is returning after the cold winter. But no chickens. Not this year. Ha!

Friday Morning

How the day begins. Larry, in from his workout in our “gym” aka “garage”, is grumbling angrily, cell phone in hand. “Can’t turn the god damn thing off.” He listens to OPB while stretching, etc.

“Okay, give it to me,” I say. “Um, where are my glasses? Stupid things. I know I just . . .”

And so it goes, the blind leading the halt. Fortunately our little ship has righted itself, the phone has been turned off, I have my glasses atop my head and we go on.

A nice day, so we get to work. We intend to spray the road side fence, but slight winds forestall that chore, and we head out to the pasture and the tree we’re clearing.

I’ve said that I want to consider keeping the massive windfall as a sculpture, and it does have an artistic quality about it. I’ve already played the “let’s keep it as habitat” card, twice, actually, so not sure if the art card will trump anything. (Side note: when will that perfectly nice word fall back into the language with it’s un-charged meaning? Going to use it anyway and maybe . . .?) Okay, what do you think?:


Could argue that it looks like some hulking reptilian figure emerging from the waters, but it’s better when seen against the mother tree, and I don’t have such a photo. Anyway, at least you can see how nice and clean it now looks. All else aside, when Larry made an injudicious cut with the saw, the thing moved a little. Probably not safe if our grandkids ever come to visit and want to go climb a tree.

But uh, oh, what’s this? Poison hemlock? Sure looks like it!


It’s actually lovely, lying under the tree and limb, mixed in with miner’s lettuce, but poison hemlock is deadly — to philosophers and cows equally. In fact you should probably wash your hands after viewing the photo. Just kidding. But Google tells me that there was actually a death recorded of someone who ate a game bird which had feasted on hemlock berries. We’ll take the photo to the nearest garden shop for positive ID before attacking it with glyphosate (Roundup). Don’t want to wake up and see deceased cows under our sculptural feature.

Okay, that was Wednesday. Now we’re up to Friday morning. This day has to be devoted to planting the 3 dogwood trees we acquired mid-week (Wednesday is Seniors Day at the nursery). Still have to do that spraying, but of course, the trees come first. This seems to be a one-man job, so I’m excused from blue-collar work for the moment.


I put this photo in just to show you how gorgeous Oregon can be sometimes!


What else? Oh yeah, chickens. Larry has done some due-diligence, phoning a friend. Who, by the way, tried to pass off an unwanted rooster on us. But it’s not looking good for the chicks, with which you have to start, apparently. They’re not as autonomous as we’d supposed, and need round-the-clock care, at least at first. Could maybe buy pullets (that’s chicken talk for teen-age birds) but. But. If we score some already grown-up chickens from someone wanting to cull their flock, I can just imagine what a sweet set-up that could be for some experienced poultryman. So, better keep the lines open to the supermarket eggs for now. Not out of the question, but fading . . .

Lunch time here at the Wood. Tuna sandwiches today. Come on over!

Having decided to focus on fencing the perimeter this spring/summer, we planned to walk it again this week. So, the perimeter of 100 acres is about 1.6 miles. Easy. I called Terri, new neighbor, to invite her to walk with me, as she’s interested in the fence from her side. She brought Darwin, a gorgeous husky, and we set out from just west of the barn. What with being a dog, Darwin is not beloved of Larry, so he, Larry, declined the invitation to join us.

Oddly, the property between our land and the neighbors’ on Bell Fountain belongs to Benton County. It is, I’m guessing, 50 yards deep and runs the length of our western boundary. It’s a nice buffer between us and the rest of the world, but is not maintained by anyone. Which means that trees growing there reach across the fence to poach our sunshine; berry brambles likewise. Limbs fall, water seeps, but surprisingly, the fence is intact. We make the turn and walk along the south border. Between us and the neighbors is a row of trees, mostly oak. Huge trees. But there are two fences, nicely containing the row. So, hmm. Whose trees are they? Which fence is ours?

We note that should dispose of the old tires someone has dumped across the fence. We’d already taken a load of them early days, and learned that it costs five bucks or so to offload old tires. We see why someone tossed them over to us in there first place. Well, farming is tough, so we have to forgive whomever.

Here’s a surprise: a granary tree!


Acorn woodpeckers excavate holes in a given tree into which they stuff their winter supply of acorns. These birds are listed “of concern” in the Willamette Valley, as their favored habitat, oak savanna, is so depleted. Obviously we’re pretty excited to see this activity, although this tree doesn’t look very full of acorns. We’re told there’s another, active granary in the copse, but we haven’t been able to find that one.

We found a recently fallen oak, and thought it might be the one Martha heard one stormy night, but Larry says no, he’d observed this one earlier this winter. Whatever. More firewood!


Speaking of which, Larry and I spent this morning clearing an oak just outside the orchard. I had gotten the idea that I should get GPS on my phone, and then photograph and identify the larger oaks on the property. While fallen limbs, and even whole trunks, make good bird habitat, they also make excellent berry, thistle, and tansy habitat as well. But we are old people, and this is hard work! Nonetheless, I wanted to document our progress. Here you go. Before:




Okay, I know you are wondering about chickens. Are we or aren’t we? Talked about it today and said, yeah, we should probably go ahead. Larry spent some time shopping on line for coops, but does not report any success. We’ll all have to wait and see.



Let’s pretend I haven’t been writing my post and just move on. Okay?

So, winter has come to the farm, as you see.


Not snowing, but it’s plenty cold for working outside. Nonetheless, we looked out the kitchen window this morning to see a crew of men planting an allotment of the 6600 trees and shrubs provided with our grant from OWEB. Not sure how the economics of the grant thing work; Benton County does the purchasing and hiring of labor while we stand back and admire. Sweet deal, huh?



Obviously these trees and shrubs are, at the moment, mere twigs, but it is a start.

Anyway, the appearance of the men caused a typical conversation. “Oh, they’re planting along the creek.”

“Which creek.”

“That one.” Accompanied by arm waving and pointing.

“I don’t know which one you mean.”

“That one.”

So we see that our creeks need names. The biggest one was anointed the Little Sometimes, back when. It actually never disappears, so the name has no real meaning. It flows roughly from West to East. Larry said “I just call it the tributary.”

Yes, but that’s not a name, I say.

“Well, that’s just what I call it.”

Fine. But you have to give it capital letters, I say. Always think of it as Tributary Creek, and we’re good. Now, what about the other one?

“How about Winter Creek?” Larry asks. I’m impressed. This isn’t usually his territory, the word thing, but he’s done it. Winter Creek it is, meandering down from roughly South to join the Tributary. Perfect.

In a conversation with Peter, later this morning, he encourages me to go to Google Maps to look at our property. Wow. Hadn’t done that before, and it’s pretty cool. From the satellite, though, we can see that Tributary has forks. So now we have North, Middle, and South Forks of the Tributary. Thanks, Peter!

On with the morning: Larry has said that he needs my help moving some fence poles left over from fencing our road. They’ve been stacked in a pile outside the barn, and need to be moved in. They’ll be useful when we have the new trees and shrubs along the creeks fenced. Not too interested in working outside in what is now sleet, but I bundle up and trudge after Farmer Larry. I’m in the barn looking for work gloves when he announces that he doesn’t need me after all and I can go on up to the house. Whew. Honest, I like driving the tractor, but not in this weather!

Yesterday we had decided to have a look to see if the camas lily bulbs planted in the fall by Fish and Wildlife had shown up. We had seen photos of the men/women working, courtesy of F&W, but couldn’t identify exactly where they were. Well, looking for tiny shoots in fields of grass and weeds proved to be useless. Sure, we saw lots of little shoots, but what they were? Dunno.

Anyway, several weeks ago, sister Martha was staying with us and reported that in the night she’d heard a great crack, surely a tree going down. If we couldn’t find infant camas lilies, maybe we could find a downed tree? The thought of loosing one of the heritage trees sickens us, but we needed to know. Fortunately, no luck there either. But I want you to see the ancient beauty of these trees:


If you can click on the images to enlarge them, this would be a good time. Okay, I have to say that when I see the way my body has changed/is changing with the years that pass, I am humbled and a little ashamed. Not this bad yet, but I sure am getting there!

In a meeting earlier this week with Donna from Benton County, Ryan Cheete, cow guy, Jarod from F & W, and Grant, fence guy, it was determined that we wouldn’t run the cattle on the property this spring, in order to allow the pastures we’d planted to develop. But Ryan would like to see the entire perimeter of the property permanently fenced. And that’s something we can get started on now, depending on Grant’s schedule. The property is fenced, sort of, but trees have fallen across the fences, blackberries grown up over them, etc. A mess. In fact, an earlier owner fenced off a good half acre of what is really our property along Muddy Creek. That piece has been ignored forever, so is a thicket of brambles, riparian trees, poison oak, ugh! But Grant says he’ll just go in there with his dozer, take out the underbrush and reclaim the land. Won’t be a park or anything, but why not?

Now we’re up to today. The sun has decided to emerge for a few minutes and the daffodils which I replanted, into pots again, from last year will bloom very soon. Larry has come in for lunch to say that, with the sun out, he will mow the “lawn.” Except that there are storm clouds looming, so spring may not be here just yet.