It’s ladybug season. They’re everywhere around the house, on screen, windows, etc. Trying to get in, one supposes. Yep, says Dr. Google. “Known as cluster-hibernators, ladybugs swarm because they’re looking for a warm place to hibernate for winter. When one of them finds a suitable place to spend the winter, it releases a pheromone that attracts a couple gazillion more of them.” And why are they called ladybugs? “In the middle ages, farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary to save their crops. Soon Ladybugs came, ate the plant-destroying pests and saved the crops! The farmers began calling the ladybugs “The Beetles of Our Lady”, and they eventually became known as “Lady Beetles”! The red wings represented the Virgin’s cloak and the black spots represented her joys and sorrows.”

Your factoids of the day. Where did the children’s refrain”fly away home” come from. That will be the discussion of another time. Meanwhile:

Here are the Old Ones. They are at least 5 hundred years old, the rings tells us, and are fragments of the Homestead Oak felled when we first planned to build a house in the shelter of this tree. We wanted them set up as a sort of Stonehenge entrance to the path through the forest, but their power is undeniable and they deserve their own, not appropriated, name.


I’m a little more woo-woo about them than is Larry, but it’s hard to consider them without, at least, respect. And the path is beautiful under our present blue skies and brilliant fall colors. By the way, the oaks are not brilliant. For brilliance we look to the ash and maple among us.

“Jane! Put on your shoes and come out here! I need you!”

Okay, I’m on it, but which shoes? “Do I need my boots?”

“I don’t care! Just come! Henrietta’s out and I can’t catch her!”

Tempted to laugh, I look out and there she is, lovely and elegant on the newly green grass. I grab a cup of dried corn (chicken candy) and head out to the rescue. While Edith and Sally come running when they see me, Henrietta is more aloof. She is French. Larry makes a couple of attempts to grab her while I shake the corn at her. No, thank you, she says politely, and easily evades Larry’s reach. Of course, we do eventually herd her back and into the coop, but this could be a problem. How the heck did she get out? It’s not very chicken-like to go burrowing under the fence, we think. I’ve seen this girl fly and OMG! She Flew The Coop! That’s where the expression must come from, right? But did she do it knowingly? Will she try it again? Time alone will tell.

Way back at the beginning of this adventure, I said that I would like a particular downed oak to remain as bird/critter habitat, and so it has. Never mind that the rancher and conservation people hid their amusement at my naivete, while the thing reached up it’s black arms in, as I think of it, a rather Halloween-ish gesture. It punctuated the driveway as it winds up the hill and even became known as the Habitat Tree. Of course, it’s been a wonderful habitat for the invasive blackberry, the wretched thistle, for all I know, hornets and wasps and snakes. Sure, birds probably liked it too, but for heaven’s sake, we have enough upright trees on the place for them. Time to lose the sentimentality! Away with it! Larry and I spent yesterday and this morning at work on the thing. He saws, I collect and pile the chunks onto the ATV, which we drive to one of the burn piles about the place. It’s pleasing to be at work on an unvisited bit of the property, and to see the morning sun from a new vantage. Makes me feel, again, amazed and lucky to be here. But we couldn’t finish it, and the rains will soon come. Next year!

Now I have to tell you a story about the title of this chapter. Someone told us that we must watch a wonderful documentary called Chicken People. It’s insane. You’ve heard of the Westminster Dog Show? Can you imagine it translated to chicken? People buffing their bird’s toenails. Fluffing their feathers with a hair dryer? The anxiety as the judges grade the little darlings? The absolutely weird and yeah, creepy, hybrid, long legged, scrawny, ugly things that have been bred for this show? Don’t go there. We are not Chicken People.



I know, surprise. We actually have a neighborhood. Terri, the only one we know, had the idea to have a “gathering” after the fire (which I’ve mentioned before). Good idea! We met a couple across the way who raise Islandic sheep, and the wife’s mom who lives in the original, small house on the property. Another woman, who owns a large property adjoining the sheep people, has just built the first home she has lived in for 40 years, her entire adult life. When her husband died several years ago, she sold some of the property, inherited from her family, and built her home. Been living in a trailer on the property those long 40 years. Good for her!

But the best outcome from the party, from our point of view, was the acquaintance of a couple, whose property adjoins ours, who are passionate about chickens. (You knew I’d get around to chickens, right?) The gentleman has volunteered to come over and take care of our birds whenever we want to get away for a while. Like for Thanksgiving, when we’re heading to Pasadena. Hooray! He has met our chickens, pronounced them nice and healthy. This is actually a big deal, as we have been wondering how we’d find a chicken-sitter when the time came.

So, finally, here they are:



They haven’t seem excited about being “free range.” There they were, the whole orchard open to be explored, and they just huddled around the coop. Back door open, good to go. So Larry and I were pretty surprised yesterday, when out in the orchard ourselves setting mole traps,to find the girls clustered around us, well away from home base. We had been bringing them treats in order to introduce ourselves to them, but still, this was new. Edith, the Rhode Island Red, is the bravest, and will come right up to the little cup I hold to investigate the dried corn within.

This was a fun trick for us. Now when they see us, they come right over. They still won’t go abroad when we aren’t there, though, which is good, as I saw a hawk sitting on the fence post one day. And they are averaging an egg a day among them, which is just the right amount.

But chickens are not the only news around here. A massive dust cloud got our attention the other day, and on examination, we found this monster in the field along Llewellyn:


This proved to be Mike, employee of USF&W. Seems the permit to build the vernal pool had finally come in, and work is underway. This work, Jarod, our main F&W Guy, explained, is “jurisdictional.” Which means permits were required from the Corp of Engineers, State of Oregon, and Benton County before earth could be moved. Because we’re in a jurisdictional flood plain. Fortunately the permits came in just before the promised rainfall later this week. Here’s what this looks like now:


When finished, the “pool” will be about a foot deep, and native plants will, theoretically, colonize the space. But it won’t look like a pond, alas, just a marshy wet-land. The aquatic community of birds, salamanders, frogs, however, will love it, Jarod insists, and come January we will be deafened by the chorus of Coastal green frogs, photo below:


Larry is, at the moment, driving his tractor in the later-this-week rainfall, after a fraught morning when the automatic brush-hog release feature didn’t function. Over to the John Deere folk with a photo of the problem, and, problem solved, but not in time to beat the rain. So here’s a photo of him yesterday when the sun still shone on his vision garden:


I agree. It is a vision. Good for him!