When I left you last week, Alexa was playing soft piano music as we drifted off to sleep. I think I’ve already told most of you, but, well, what do we all know about skunks, anyway? Why is one under our house, and why did he/she spray? The female will spray a male if she does not care to mate with him, I have learned, but hey, it’s August. Not mating season, right? So, predator?

The next morning, I go in search of possible skunk entrance and find:

Holy crap! I show Larry my photo and we begin to strategize. But I know what I’ll do. Call a friendly neighbor who happens to be sort of a genius engineer. You know, the kind who will plan and build, by himself, seismic reinforcement for his house? A little skunk burrow shouldn’t wrinkle his brow.

He comes over, measures the hole, returns with a 2×4 whittled to size, soaked in some preservative, a shop light on a wire, and some super-strength vinegar. Advises the purchase of a Nest camera, which will digitally catch the perp, and I’m ready to deal. Meanwhile, I have the inspiration to sift cornstarch on the path. Anybody goes in there, I’ll know it.

Now, a week later, no sign of any traffic into the hole. No smell. Did the vinegar and the light do the trick? Larry sits across from me working on the Nest camera, which has helpfully just arrived. We’ll mount it by the garden . . .

So how’s it going, two weeks in on the surgery? Um, we’re both tired. But the bandage is off the knee, he’s in rehab (physical, that is), still hoping to be golfing come October. I’ve been doing a lot of work outside that Larry would normally do. And here’s the thing. When we began this live-in-the-country gig, we did everything together. Standing in the back of the pickup pouring water onto the new driveway trees. It’s dark but it’s light because the moon is full and it’s magic. Like that.

But over time, we began to assume roles. When there are branches to saw from a fallen tree, Larry does it himself or gets Mitch, a guy who works for us sometimes, to help. He straps on the backpack and sprays blackberries. He tills his garden. Grows squash and potatoes and tomatoes.

I do the laundry. Plan and cook the meals. Can or freeze the squash and tomatoes. Of course, we both do both, sort of. Like dishes, for example, although dishes are not the same.

But now, today I went out in the morning to check on the chicken’s water and found that I’d left the hose on all night, watering a rhododendron. OMG, I’m horrified that I’ve run the well dry. (Don’t worry, I didn’t). But the chicken’s watering system had run dry — and needed to be cleaned. That chore done, I weed-whacked the orchard fence and dead-headed the dahlias. I had to haul the trash bins up from the road and into the barn.

When I looked up, it was noon. I had forgotten. I like this work.

Of course, I can’t do this alone, but I mean to pull on my boots more often when Larry has both legs under him again.

Changing the subject, neighbor Terri had the inspiration to bring Larry some of her vast puzzle collection to pass the time while he mends. Good idea! He’s motored through one thousand-piecer, but this?

He finally had to play the color-blind card and walk away. So there it sat on the table and what could I do. Can’t just walk by, and so. Pretty soon all my thoughts about strong-woman farming drifted away. I made peanut-butter cookies. Sigh.

I said earlier that we’re tired. I’ve been having a fight with my devices — having to do with compromised passwords, or so my computer tells me. And I have an appointment tomorrow with SimplyMac, who will, I hope, inform me that I don’t have to change every. single. password. If someone in DesMoines is using my information on a different computer, I say, have at it. Maybe you can get Hulu to work for you.

Yawn. Must stay up until 9 pm. I’m listening to a book — have you been watching Chair? So there’s a bit in the show about David Duchovny. I looked him up, and found his novel Truly Like Lightning. Wow. Read by the author. I’m loving it, thinking I’d like to read it, as well. Of course I know I won’t. But so you know, yeah.



Note to my future self: Remember, if/when you read this, that a post cannot be considered an actual timeline of events. And we’re in the Time of Covid, now, today, when one has a hard time realizing what day of the week it is, even when it actually is a given day of the week.

Note to everyone else: We’ve been engaged these last few weeks, no matter how the days arranged themselves, in a race to finish the coming winter chores before Larry submitted to knee-replacement replacement surgery.

And if you’re just now reading this, Friday, September 3, Larry has emerged from the anesthesia with a shiny new knee joint — okay, I don’t know if it’s literally shiny — is dozing in his hospital bed after a rigorous morning of physical therapy, and is awaiting the judgement of some “infectious disease” experts re the course of an antibiotic regime.

Backing up, we learned that he was to quarantine himself for two weeks before the surgery. But what did that exactly mean? We were about to define the term for ourselves. Starting with an invitation to view some property Green Belt Land Trust is acquiring. Or hoping to acquire. Yes, sure, we’re being “developed” but we understand and approve.

The weather was cooperative, and we met Jessica from the Trust, and another supporter, in the Bald Hill parking area. In good quarantine compliance mode, we masked up and climbed into the back seat of Jessica’s car. To travel a few hundred feet to see the gorgeous property under consideration:

This is 140 acres of oak savanna, similar to our own hundred acre property, though it is missing the individual heritage trees with which we’re fortunately graced. I was eager to pick Jessica’s professional brain in exchange for being “developed.” As you see, grass is being raised here, but is not subsequently grazed.

Haying season, and watch out for these trucks lumbering down the local roads. Yes, you’ll get caught behind one of them, but you have to relax. You’ll get there.

We were meant to go on a walk into the woods bordering this property, and it was silent and lovely in the woods, though the walk was very short. Just on the edge of the field, someone had built this picnic table. Sweet.

Thinking we need such a table under our shady “homestead” tree out by the orchard.

Next up were Jenny, Tom, and Will, who flew down (using miles!) from Seattle to finally split and remove the wood lying in Fish and Wildlife territory alongside the road. There were two jobs remaining that were torturing Larry, and this was the first. Pretty nice to have teenagers in the family who, in addition to helping with infuriating tech problems, can man a chain saw. This applies to any of our five amazing grandkids.

Quarantine? Yes, distance and no hugs, but these are our family, all double vacced. Right?

We were about to test the limit when we were invited to dinner at a friend’s home over at Black Butte Ranch. We hadn’t seen her since way before Covid, and we had some bedding to haul over to our own home there, so? Okay, I could go to the dinner, but Larry, no. All the guests that night are vacced, but they aren’t family, and I can’t claim bubble, so, we just broke the rules, kind-of. I mean, I’m not quarantining? I did bring home a half-bottle of wine from the party, so Larry felt better about missing the fun.

Next problem? Gordon and Vik are on it. The marion-berries have to be twined about their wires before Larry can spread wood chips in the aisles, and then along the driveway-garden interface. These berries apparently like to sprawl their long arms out and into the squash, cabbages, onions. Which, fine, but how would we pick them, come ripening? Here’s how they look after several hours of hard, sweaty work. By the men, that is, though Vik and I walked down from time to time to enquire how it was going.

They’re not our family, but they are our bubble, so, outside, distance, etc.

We had a surprise request from Jeanne Ederer, finally taking us up on the invitation to come on down to the farm. Jeanne and Ted are Jenny’s in-laws, with whom we share some of those above-mentioned amazing grandkids. They were spending a few days on the Oregon coast, and thought they might be able to visit us here. Oh, man. We are being tested! Of course we would want to see them. Besides, they’re practically family. Really. Outside only, distance, they sit here, we sit there, and we did have a lovely evening.

And we’re within a week of the surgery. Now we are really going to isolate. Definitely. So when a proposed meeting with Jarod of Fish and Wildlife, Donna of Benton County, and Matt, the plant procurer, came together, we had to — well, we just had to meet with them. Down by the barn, masks at all times, distance, and we were able to put together a plan for berry spray, 500 new trees along the creek banks, and an opportunity for Matt to address the oak trees of the copse, which need thinning.

I usually find myself on the outside of these plans, looking in, and believe that’s how the above folks also find me. True, I’m not the one who does the actual work, but it’s somewhat odd. Two of the organizations I’ve mentioned today are headed by women. Very smart women. So I don’t quite get why I end these meetings feeling like, you know, the girl. Do you think it’s because the stupid questions I ask really are stupid? I mean, what’s wrong with enquiring if goats might help with the blackberry problem? If we should thin the ash seedlings in the riparian forest? The answer “if that’s what you want” isn’t helpful. Grrr.

It’s Saturday night, September 4. Larry has come home. The infection is under control. He’s peacefully sleeping, Alexa playing Pandora Solo Piano Music. I spent an hour this afternoon learning how to run the therapy bike which we will have for three weeks. The dishwasher’s running, the sun has set. We made an attempt to settle the patient up in my space above the garage, but we think we’ll have to find a better way tomorrow. But for now, ahhhh.

And thank you to all our friends who expressed concern, wishes, love for Larry. It worked! And personal thanks to friends and my own beautiful Peter, David, and Jenny, who helped me get through these hard two days!