Here the answer to the age old question: Chickens. The chickens came first, followed shortly by this beautiful egg. OMG.

I have as yet no photo of the girls, their arrival having been a bit too chaotic, the farmer a bit too stressed. As they live behind a wire screen at the moment, photography is difficult. When they are turned into the orchard in a few days, I will introduce you to them properly.

Meanwhile, do you recall reading about the wood-splitting adventure of several days ago? After the long hot summer, we learned that burning was again allowed, from 1pm to 5pm on Thursday. Larry thought it a good opportunity to burn the pile of un-splittable chunks, and spent the afternoon standing by the rather formidable fire. I looked out at one point to see him swinging a golf club. Well, one way to spend an afternoon.

But it isn’t clear to us if the 5pm deadline means that we have to extinguish the fire, or simply refrain from starting a new fire, at that point. It was to our advantage to presume the latter interpretation, and so we did. But at 10:00, our fire was still pretty hot, smoldering if not actually aflame. We took the flashlight out with the intention of hosing the embers down, but, on examination, decided that, on such a still night, they were safe to leave. The moon just then rose behind the oak woods, mysterious as always, and at that moment, the first coyote sang. Eerie enough, but when he was joined by his pack, which seemed to be circling behind us with their polyphonic song (I always think the coyote song is what the aurora borealis
would sound like, could we hear it), it felt like church, or what church should feel like. Sorry, long sentence.

Fine, right? But I worry. So, when I woke up at 2-ish I had to go look. Out the window, I mean. Damn. I saw actual flames. Fuckdoodle. If it hadn’t been for that fire in the woods next to us, while we were out of town, but which we have been made to feel was somehow our responsibility (yes, even from the middle of the Baltic), maybe I would have been able to go back to bed. Should I wake Larry? He’ll think I’m being ridiculous, but, being Larry, will find his slippers, look for a jacket, and I will have to beg him not to go out there. Which means the fire . . . Okay. I’ll go. Damn it. I’m kind of scared, but I get the flashlight, pull on my boots, climb through the fence, find the hose, and put out the fire. The moon is full, high overhead. It’s so quiet. No coyotes. Just a few peeps and a whistle. It’s so beautiful. You should have been there.

I get back in bed, filled with righteousness. A lovely feeling. Ha. But you want to hear about the chicken acquisition. So Saturday was the day of the Corvallis Poultry Swap (aka Poultry Faire). I had to get to band practice, but the event opened at 10:00. Who knew how it would go. Would all the best chickens be snatched up by early swappers? Haven’t been to such an affair before, so we decided that Larry would go on without me, and when I could get back by noon, he’d show me what he’d found, and we’d choose our chickens. As with most plans, that didn’t work. By the time I got back, the chicken supply had seriously dwindled, and Larry had been forced to buy the two remaining chickens of one vendor. A Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock. By the time I phoned in, there were but two remaining Novogens, a French breed. We thought a French chicken would be a nice touch. They were bred to be good layers, so perhaps our lovely egg is hers.

The distaste on Larry’s face was so funny it would go viral if I could have captured it when, upon opening the box and attempting to put the birds in their coop, one flapped away. The one we have named Sally. Larry had to go after her and honestly, it was hilarious. Of course I didn’t dare laugh, but I’m laughing now.

We got the three of them into the coop part of their cage and watched as they timidly looked out the little door to their stairs, thought about going down. We knew this bird was Sally when she shoved the others aside. I will go first, and when I get down, you may follow me. Took her awhile, though, and eventually she just flew down. But she’s the largest bird, the Barred Rock, very sure of herself, in control, obviously very smart, and thus reminds me of my own beloved Sally, who takes care of me in the way Sally-bird seems to take care of her flock. Okay, now I’m going to bore you, but when it was Henrietta’s turn to come down, she moved, elegantly, one graceful toe at a time. I’m serious! Right now, it’s such fun.

And that’s it. We went out to dinner — found a super Italian store-front — I had their special, slow-roasted lamb with grilled Brussels sprouts and some yummy potatoes, while Larry had a pizza. A really good pizza, but when I asked him why he’d ordered that when there were such good-looking pastas, he said “where.” He didn’t see any pastas on the menu. Too bad. But at least we found a fun new place to eat. We’ll take you there next time you come.



Sometimes I write my post in my head while awake at 3 o’clock in the morning. Such is the case today, and our discussion will be about prunes. There seems to be a notion abroad that prunes are to plums as raisins are to grapes. (Sounds like an SAT question.) “Prunes,” it is true, is the name given to the wrinkled, chewy treat, dried from ripe fruit, bagged, on the grocery shelf, best known and loved by the elderly in pursuit of, well, regularity. Ask someone and they will assert that sure, prunes are just dried plums. Go to Google and you will read that while both plums and prunes are from the same genus,(Prunus)they are not the same plant. Huh? Then why aren’t plums a type of prune? If the genus is “Prunus?” Confusion abounds. Of late I see prunes labeled as “Italian Prune plums.” Strikes me as a bit of cover-your-ass reverse engineering by the plum lobby. Not buying it.

Anyway, while no one will stroll about picking a basket of raisins from a vine, one can, and should, pick a handful of lovely ripe prunes fresh from the tree. They are lush, purple, lobed, swathed in powdery bloom, and inside, are a juicy gold color. But what should I do with mine, I asked last week. Decided to freeze them, and now, here they are. A permanent dark purple stain around my fingernails from handling them gives me a kind of neo-Goth look. Interesting.


Yes, it is all about chickens! Our coop comes with a solar-powered door to let the birds out in the morning and tuck them safely in at night. Instructions, YouTube videos, a phone call to the builder, easy, right? Took Larry all morning, hands and knees, power tools, an assist from me, posted inside the little structure, and friends and family, you are right. This is when we remember how old we are. But it’s done and miraculously, the thing works. We waited anxiously for nightfall to see if it really would close by itself, and after only two flashlight-powered trips outside, we learned that it indeed does. (Slightly reminiscent of the days when, at midnight, I’d wait to see our teen-ager’s car pull into the driveway.)

With Larry’s new-found expertise based on “Living with Chickens,” we ventured forth into Craig’s List. Lots of choices! Time to head over to Wilco. Where it seems to be chick season again, lots of babies chirping away in their heat-lamp warmed cages. We needed feed and watering systems, bedding material and, we thought, some sort of carrier to transport our chickens, when and wherever we found them. And were lucky in being assigned to Amanda, who has strong opinions and much experience. Best news, there’s a Poultry Faire (cute spelling) in Corvallis on the 29th.

On the way to Wilco, Larry and I debated our strategy. We would take the truck to the Faire, and bring the birds home in our to-be purchased carriers. Just put them in the back and away we go. Me: But we can’t just drive around with them getting blown about in the wind. Like What’s His Name Romney from Utah who strapped his golden retriever to the top of his SUV. Larry, sighing: We’re not going to be driving that fast, and I don’t want chicken poop inside the truck. And so on. We agreed to disagree and, as these things often turn out, the question was moot. “Chicken carriers?” harrumphed Amanda. “Alls you need is cardboard boxes.” Oh.

Back while Larry was struggling with the chicken’s power door, I decided to bring some discipline to the tangle of tomatoes growing up and through the orchard fence. These plants, unlike those in the actual garden, have shown vigor, coupled with absolutely no restraint, and whoa. We got tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes by the bucket, and, something the nursery tag calls “Amana Oranges.” Fun! Heritage! But I didn’t read the small print, which describes “one-pound beefsteaks.” Well. One of these would feed a large family, each member of which just loves tomatoes.


Next day: Thursday, to be exact. Ooh, this was a hard one. We split the wood that has been lying under the oak since the dinosaur (see earlier post) was removed and left to lie in pieces among the blackberry and hemlock. Larry rented the splitter and drove it up to the site — a brilliant idea. Oak is heavy! And the chunks to be split, huge. But now the tree stands in splendor, the truck is loaded with split wood, and all that remains is a burn pile.

Today, Friday: Allan and another Guy came to work on the path through the copse. It is so cool! Switchbacks down to the lower meadow. I would show you a photo, but at the moment, my computer is refusing to allow this move. I will say that the walk down through the woods is now a lovely stroll. You will remember how treacherous it was earlier, and now, with the trees Sam has removed and the graded path, it’s just so much fun. Of course, going back up the hill is still an uphill climb. Come on over and I’ll show you in person!

Back in Portland, which is probably why my computer is being difficult. Or not. Annoying! See you next week!


Really, it could happen to anyone. Say you’re checking out at Costco and your old college buddy phones at that moment to wish you happy birthday and you get a little distracted. The wife has to sign, and she puts the Costco and Visa cards in your shirt pocket, she’s pretty sure, but when you try to pay at the service station which is 75 miles from Costco and 75 miles from home, your credit card is missing. You’re not wearing that shirt. Oh crap. So you use your wife’s card and here’s the fun part. You have to put a hold on the card until you can get back to Bend, and you will have to use her bank card any time you go shopping at the farm. Because you’re not on her account, you will have to take her with you when you go, for example, to the Corvallis Home Depot, and she simply can’t understand why it takes a half an hour to select the correct widget for your Whatsit. If she had just handed you the stupid cards like a normal person — but wait. You can only think that. Do not say it.

But it’s okay. He got the cards back now and we’re good.

On Sunday morning, early, Cory and Tiffany arrived to wash all windows and screens, upstairs and down. This was to take 6 or 7 hours, a big job. They were efficient, thorough, and we were glad Craig’s List delivered them to us. But why! does anyone name his/her child Tiffany? Think, people. It’s a jewelry store, could we just leave it at that?

Everyone is running ahead of the rain. On Monday, Bill and Allan, Landscape Guys, stopped by to discuss the trail through the copse. I put on my boots (Larry still not back from his trip to retrieve his Visa card) and we decided on the path, angling down to emerge at the base of the giant, old-growth fir tree which stands alone, an anomaly here, taller than any oak will ever grow. We decided that Allan will carve the path with his little one-man skidsteer, and mark the path with green tape. The marking will let Sam, Tree Guy, know which trees must go, which must not be touched.

Tuesday was the long awaited move-the-coop day. Adam, who is the Brush-clearing-along-the-fence Guy, and his dad would do the job. In preparation, Larry has leveled the new site, built a foundation, and lay and attached wire (he calls it cloth, but, it’s not) a couple of feet around the perimeter to keep foxes, etc., from digging under and into the coop. Yes, I am surprised that he knew how to do all this! Here we are:



Yes, that’s grass inside the coop. Nothing too good for our girls! But where are they, our girls? To be continued. Meanwhile, Larry has undertaken to read “Living with Chickens” from cover to cover. A little alarmed to learn that the author’s flock quickly expanded to 55. “That’s not going to happen.” he muttered from deep within his comfy chair.

Allison, daughter-in-law, has been here since Sunday, helping get her Amy established in the little house she and friends are renting for the school year in Eugene. I love having Allison here, and although she usually has time to organize a cupboard or two of mine (I’m serious, I love this!), on this occasion the task with Amy proved too great. Exhausting, because Amy’s room in the basement of the little Eugene house has proved to be, um, well, shitty. Her words, not mine. Amy keeps her off-season clothes and stuff here at the farm, which is great because she has a reason to visit us when collecting whatever. Good news, at the end of the day, Amy has secured an upstairs bedroom, and all’s well.

Wednesday: Sam Carter, Tree Guy, arrived with a reduced crew, to do what he could toward completion of the week’s work we agreed upon. Main guy out sick after pine-cone harvest-induced illness. Elk hunting with Dad, not to be missed. Meaning the week will extend well into late September. We actually don’t care. The idea is to clear one section of the copse of as many as 150 small oaks to provide living room for the older trees. (And for our path.) The trick is to maintain a level of canopy that allows the wild flowers underneath to thrive. Too much sunlight and the grasses crowd out the flowers. Too little sunlight and the oaks can’t achieve the natural, expansive shape with which we’re familiar.

After two day’s labor, here’s what we have:


While this was going on, a great cloud of dust began to fill the sky. This would be Ryan’s (Cow Guy) work, disc-ing the field along Llewellyn. You could see the dust, but not the tractor, and smell the dust, and see it settling on our newly cleaned screens, the porches, inside the house if we didn’t get all the windows closed. But, speaking of rain, where is it?

On Thursday, the rain finally arrived. As did Bill, to discuss the selection and placement of trees that will mark the beginning of the homestead place, end of the road, where the rough gravel becomes more civilized. It was a thought from the beginning, forgotten about, but we do like the idea. Also to be considered, some similar treatment down by the entry gate. Bill is promoting manzanita trees there. Sidebar: When I went to Google to have a look, the first entry was a selection of battery-operated, glittered gold or silver, table-top trees. Wow. Who knew? But no, we mean real trees. I always believed manzanita to be an Eastern-Oregon, high desert shrub. Trees. Hmm.

This was the day when Larry acquired the sod to go inside the coop. Home Depot is just a short hop from the chicken store we’d identified along the road to Albany, so let’s go check it out! Drove into the place where, indeed, dozens of chickens were roaming about. But it resembled nothing so much as that horrid Harris Ranch cattle feed lot down I-5 in California. Just dirt. A variety of birds, from turkeys on down, scratching about a few wooden coops here and there. Ugh. A woman, chased by a bulldog came to enquire if she could help. Um, we’re wanting a couple of chickens? Turns out, the sign advertising the place does say “chicken” not “chickens” and what’s for sale there are eggs and chicken meat. So this is what they mean by “free range?” Yeah. Don’t think so, but thank you. It’s probably too late, she advised us, but we could try the poultry exchange at the fairgrounds. Although that was last week. Maybe someone still has some birds for sale. Anyway.

This morning has been devoted to putting up the apple crop. Provided by just the one tree which succeeded in fielding a real crop. So. Perhaps 50% of the apples were afflicted with worm-age, but hey. My dad-the-DDT purveyor for the Willamette Valley, back in the day, used to tell me that if one objects to the use of insecticides, one should be willing to choose the wormy apples at the grocery store. Well, good point. I know I always try to choose the best specimens when shopping, but now I’ve raised these organic beauties and we’re going to eat them. Of course, I carve out the wormy spots, don’t worry.



Seven apples, 2.5 pounds, these will go into the freezer, and when solid, into a plastic zip-lock for a future apple crisp. Yum! Next up, the prunes. What am I going to do with them? I’ve learned that they’re not free-stone, so that means either drying, canning, or freezing them whole. Fortunately, there aren’t vast thousands of them. Any suggestions welcome!

Okay, lunch time. Gotta go. Up to Portland this evening for a nice weekend with Peter, dinner with friends, nice. See ya.