MARCH 20

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This is Andrew, First Grandkid. From the bemused look on his face, you will intuit that a chain saw does not define him. If he were to lean his elbow on a Koenigsegg, for example, his smile would be different.

Yeah, I’d never heard of a Koenigsegg either, but it is a hypermegacar, (which means the thing goes really, really fast) one of which is currently on sale on line for $3,000,000.00.

Andrew and his dad, Peter, had come to the farm for a couple of days, bringing some SoCal muscle to the project of clearing the fence lately smashed by a falling oak tree. They put in a good two-days work, not only on the fence, but the trees stacked on the ground from the earlier copse-clearing as well. Hooray! More firewood!

I do not suppose that a hypermegacar is in Andrew’s near future, but he has a passion for autos of this class, even having recently spent hard-earned money for one time around a track — with a pro driver, of course — at some fund-raising affair. He shared a movie-length video of various aspects of these things, the sound track of which can be imagined. It’s not a passion that easily translates into realization, but, who knows? I suspect there is much more to Andrew behind his easy smiles than has yet been revealed.

I came into the kitchen on Friday morning to find him sleeping on the sofa. He’s a long drink of water, maybe 6’2, but apparently he couldn’t sleep in the provided bed. Hey, Andrew, if you see this, I spent Sunday night on that bed. Yikes! Like sleeping on a slab of concrete. Okay, I didn’t spend the whole night, fortunately having my own bed to which to retire. Grandpa and I hauled a 2-inch foam pad down here from Portland, and next time, you should be able to sleep comfortably in the thus-augmented guest bed.

Changing the subject, obviously, here we have a photo of the Samoan piano movers shoving my piano up the stairs at the farm. This is part of a project to reconfigure the Chickroom/Snug/Attic as an adult retreat, complete with sofa and TV. Against the day when we sell the condo, I thought to move the piano so that I can enjoy it now. I mostly use it to work out chords on my banjo, but I do like to play it and suppose that when my banjo picking’ days are behind me I will still have a way to make music.

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Who but the former front line of the Beaver football squad could get the 800 pound gorilla up the stairs and around the corner, with smiles on their beautiful faces . . . Love these guys!

New boy toy to report:

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Not as easy as it looks, says Larry. Hmm. Does it look easy to you? Didn’t think so. But he has now the means to begin work on the 2019 Vision Garden. Onion sets have already arrived in the mailbox. We may hope that the green beans will germinate, the tomatoes prosper, and most particularly, that the zucchini will be sweet.

With two days of sunshine, we hauled chairs out of the garage and stretched out in the newly warm air. This move unfortunately revealed dead flies, rocks from the driveway, dirt, odd lumps, one of which turned out to be a deceased frog, in the space formerly occupied by the chairs. It was a little frog, but still. Ah, spring.

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SNOW

When you’re a kid growing up in the soggy Willamette Valley and it snows, you’re just happy. When it snows for a week, it’s a miracle. What about when you’re a grown-up living in Corvallis? Yep. Miracle.

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This is the sign Jenny gave Larry for Christmas, all dressed up:

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Okay, backing up here. When last seen, the chickens were huddled in the coop, reluctant to go outside even when tempted with treats. No surprise, when I discovered this guy, lying athwart the coop wall:

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It’s a Kestrel, a small hawk. Look at his beautiful, intricate markings. Mysterious Mom Nature at work:

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But he’s too small to hunt a chicken, isn’t he? Well, no, according to the man at Shonnards, who is our source of most farm-related info. Chickens, he tells us, are at the bottom of the food chain, with no defensive mechanisms, thanks to years of domestication and selective breeding. Even a Kestrel can take one if he’s lucky. Which apparently ours wasn’t, who died trying. Or so it appears.

However, Shonnards tells us, that wasn’t a hawk that killed your birds anyway. No hawk will go inside a coop, nor would he leave the dead bodies tucked in, as ours were. Nope. Got yourselves a rat, he says first. But upon receiving more information, changes his diagnosis. Yeah, no, that wasn’t a rat. A weasel, or mink. Maybe a raccoon, but the m.o. clearly points to a weasel. Hmm. I didn’t like the idea of a rat, but a weasel takes our chickens? No romance, no Mom Nature sacrificing one bird for another. What do we know about weasels, other than their very bad reputation? Excuse me while I turn to Google. (Went to Mental Floss, in case you want to see photos.) They’re cute, vicious, bloodthirsty killers, provisioned with a skunk-like stink gland. Well, no wonder Rhodie has been paralyzed since the attack. So how do we protect our birds, going forward? Grant, Fence-Guy is coming over on Sunday to assess the possibilities for an outdoor run inside the orchard for the chickens. To protect from hawks and owls, we supposed. Free range, yet alive, chickens? How far do we go?

Changing the subject to the Department of Having Fun: We took a long weekend to go to Astoria with our buddies Vik and Gordon for the Fisher Poet Festival. This is a long-standing celebration (21 years) of a community of which we knew about exactly nothing. Fisher folk comprise lobstermen from Maine, salmon, haddock, crab, and halibut fishers from Alaska, a brotherhood which includes a serious component of women. Wasn’t so much “poetry” as stories, a window on a seductive, dangerous, compelling way to make a lot of money (or not) in a short span of time.

On Monday, while Larry is in Portland having breakfast with his work-friends from back in the day, going to the dentist, to the symphony, I remain snow-bound on the farm, unable to travel to the city for my own dentist appointment. Oh darn. I receive an invitation from neighbors to come over for a bowl of soup, then, when it gets dark, out to the hill in back for some night-time sledding. With two artificial knees, some activities are pretty challenging. Like getting into or out of a bathtub, for example. What about flopping down onto a sled? Yeah, not so easy. So I took just one run, for my pride, and called it perfect. Side bar: when we first met these neighbors, Larry enjoyed regaling them with our life history, complete, incessantly, with dates. They could do the math, and while I’m not so bloody eager for everyone to know just how old we are, he revels in it. Apparently. Result, these neighbors treat us gently, as one might, treat old people. Sigh.

Now we turn to the dark side of this snow. On Tuesday of this week, Larry and I took a walk around the western/southern perimeter of the property. And found this:

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Larry sounds dismayed, but I believe he is secretly enjoying the prospect of more sawing! We have five fallen trees! he exclaims, but when I suggest hiring Sam to come and take care of them, he says no. Ah. I get it. But this particular tree is unfortunate in the damage to our brand new fencing. As no cows are here at the moment, there’s time to do the work. Weather permitting, which it isn’t. And of course, even Larry knows he can’t mend the fence. That will involve Grant who, as I pointed out earlier, will be here this weekend.

So this morning we wake up in the month of March. Fog, temp below 32, our cell phones inform us. But there is work to be done in cleaning the garage, always a favorite. We’re on it!

HENRIETTA AND SALLY ARE DEAD

Monday morning and I’m leaving for Portland. Sister Martha has been here for the weekend; we’ve visited some apartments in Charbonneau (wrong on many counts, cross that off the list), been to the ballet in Eugene (Romeo and Juliet, fabulous), talked, laughed, you know. But my appointment is at 11:00, so after a smoothie for breakfast, I leave first. On the fence around the orchard, I see a hawk sitting just above the chicken coop, so I madly honk to scare it away, then drive off.

I get to Portland and call Larry, as per, to check on any items he wants me to bring home, but his phone goes straight to message. Rats. Okay, I’ll text him. My phone rings, it’s Larry, but if he hears me, he doesn’t respond. Double rats. Oh well.

But then my phone rings again, and this time we’re connected, and I hear the sad news. Henrietta and Sally are dead. Rhodie has survived, but she isn’t talking. The bodies are in the nest, so apparently the hawk has crawled in through the little light-sensitive door and attacked the birds inside.

Larry asks if I want him to dispose of the bodies, or wait until I get back. Uh, no, dear, you go ahead. Brave man, who has gotten a few laughs in discussions of what we’ll do if. But needs must.

When I get back I go to visit Rhodie. She’s numb, has stayed on the nest all day, but when I call her, she manages to get down the ladder. I can’t tell if she’s hurt, nothing visible, but she’s in shock for sure. I’m not sure if she needs a companion chicken, or if we just enjoy their silly behavior, but we determine to find a replacement chicken. Does that sound heartless?

Craig’s List, we’re told at Wilco where we go to enquire after our options, and, of course, to admire the new crop of chicks. They are desperately cute, but we’re not that desperate. And sure enough, Craig’s List does have pullets for sale. Lots of them. So we won’t have to wait until the next farm Faire in April to find our new Henrietta or Sally. Just one or the other, for now.

We find someone with Novogens for sale, so, Henrietta then. We’re to meet them back at Wilco with $20 at 10:00. To prepare, Larry decides to clean the coop, put down new bedding, clean the water, etc. We’re pleased to see that Rhodie is more responsive, and I go inside to take a shower.

Full disclosure: I pretty much don’t take my phone with me wherever, so that would include the bathroom. I search the closet, take my shower, take my time, and am just reaching for the blow-dryer when I hear Larry’s ring tone, out in the dining room.

“Hi. What’s up? Just drying my hair.”

“Think you could wait on that and come out here? I’m locked in the coop.”

What!? (This is me, trying not to laugh.) See, there’s a little mechanism that should prevent this sort of thing. A cord threads through the hook and into the coop. Should the door accidentally close, the human inside can simply pull on the cord and unlatch the door. But the cord has become tangled and the device doesn’t work. He’s stuck. Rhodie doesn’t care.

Fortunately, he HAS taken his phone with him, on this day, anyway. “How many times did you call me?” I ask.

“That was the fourth.” Oh God. Don’t laugh.

Everything sorted out, we head for Wilco and Henrietta II. She’s too young to be laying yet, be another month or so. With the shock, Rhodie isn’t producing, so for now, we’re eggless. But here she is, hiding behind Rhodie in the newly-cleaned coop:

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Don’t know where you are, but it’s been raining non-stop here. Muddy Creek is looking like a river for sure, the roadside ditches are full. We did the prosaic stuff: trip to the post-office, the grocery, and heard people talking about floods, power failures. Just like last week, when it was about the huge snow storm that didn’t. We’ll see, but in the meantime, it’s a really good excuse for postponing any farm work. Like planting bulbs?

Now I would like to respond to Vik’s comment on my last post. If you haven’t seen it, go there. You are all welcome, who come here, to have the pleasure of knowing that at long last, the driveway is behind you. You have survived the hawks, the cougars, the black feral cat, the starlings, the geese, the egrets and herons and sheep, the huge snakes that ply the fields, the cows, if cows there be, and yes, have arrived! Hooray!

Brr, just came in from siting the ill-chosen foundation plants from last spring. The 6′ rose that crowded out the gentle lavender, the catmint ditto, the peonies that bloomed alright, but not in the peony shape that we’d expected. Sigh.

“Seems like replanting is something you “farmers” could manage on your own. I mean, you self-prune trees, and so on.”

True, but it’s more complicated, in that the auto sprinkling system is involved, and the guys are here anyway.

“If you say so. What guys are we talking about, anyway?”

These guys:

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Allen and Vaughn, Landscape people. The spent several days last week working on the path, which looks beautiful under the recent blue skies. We thought a bench would be a good idea, and the amazing Allen just climbed a downed branch with his chain saw, and created a slab for the bench seat.

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Here’s the path going around the corner:

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But what they’re doing in the first photo is completing the original driveway scheme whereby there will be a line separating the driveway gravel from the “courtyard” gravel, with two Japanese cherry trees on either side. I put quotes around the word “courtyard” because it suggests something far more genteel, perhaps European, than is actually the case. Like, we’re in Corvallis?

I was describing this to a massage therapist to whom we’d been referred after our Portland practitioner abandoned the field in favor of her on-line jewelry business. I know. She made more selling jewelry and teaching others how to make it than she could rubbing knots out of client’s muscles and bones? Guess so. Anyway, the new practitioner down valley, as they say here, reacted to my description of the path. “Is this something for the public? Like trails or something? For walking their dogs?”

Well, no. Just for us? I’m afraid so.

I need to talk a bit about our weekend. What with one thing and another, we had Saturday off and decided to use the time in service of answering the question What Next? On the previous Saturday we’d had a meeting in our condo with a Portland realtor to help us establish a price, should we actually decide to sell it. This accelerated the necessity of deciding Then where we’ll go when we need to be in Portland. As our long-suffering friends will attest, we’ve been all over the map (literally), from Mirabella (retirement home) to a new but smaller condo in one of the many buildings going up around us, to an apartment in Charbonneau (village 30 minutes south of Portland), to Touch Mark (another retirement home) to the idea of just staying in a hotel as needed.

So, we took a tour of Touch Mark earlier in the month, and accepted the invitation to stay in one of their guest rooms for a weekend to give us the idea of what life in such a place would actually be like.

Readers. Those places are full of old people! Very friendly, welcoming, for all I know interesting, but it’s still a shock. The guest room was exactly like a hotel room, and was therefore helpful in illustrating that the hotel option probably won’t work. I forgot, for example, to bring socks and had to wear my boots barefoot all day. Annoying. We wanted to assess the food situation, and I have to report that lunch in the pub was delicious. But, $350.00 each per month? When we’re planning to use it as a weekend get-away?

Stay tuned. And yes, we do know that we are old people too. Thank you.

Now I’m looking out at the fence around our yard, where the old plants have been newly planted. Looks quite nice! The peonies were already sprouting new growth, which means that I need to get busy and plant the many bulbs we’ve been saving for the last couple of years. Problem is, I no longer know for sure which are tulips, which daffodils, as my sorting system has been the victim of heavy usage of the shed benches for tools, etc. And I want to go to the library — no, let’s be honest, I’ll be going to the book store — to find suggestions for foundation plants to fill the newly dug holes.

Lunch time. With Larry in Portland, I have an opportunity to clean out the refrig/freezer. I claim that I’m a good cook, and it’s fun to use my chops on all the left-over stuff. Which usually gets turned into soup, but today I’m looking a a remnant of frozen pigs-in-a-blanket from some long-ago appetizer, and some home-made, also frozen, Chinese dumplings. This is not promising for soup. Sort of a tapas meets dim sum? Oh well, it’s only lunch for one. Yum!

SNAKES AND OTHER LIVING CREATURES

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I’m not exactly afraid of snakes, but I don’t like coming across them accidentally. If there’s one in the barn, okay, I’ll just leave the barn. You can imagine the look on my scientist-entomologist father’s face when I once postulated, with all the wisdom of my 8-or-so years, that women are probably averse to snakes because of that long-ago unfortunate business in the Garden of Eden. My dad actually snorted at such foolishness, and I can hear him still.

Maybe you don’t notice the snake in this photo? The gray coil with the black stripe. No garter snake, this fellow. He unwound to about 3 feet, slowly realizing that he was un-hibernated and a very well behaved dog was watching. (Larry — yes, Larry — even commented that if he ever got a dog, it would be one of this dog’s brothers.)

Her name is Callie, and she belongs to Casey, who was down by the barn setting fence. The snake appeared when Casey pulled a snag tree out by the roots in order to facilitate the farm gate installation. This is where the cows will unload, if and when. But what’s important is that he also, finally, hauled away the tangle of fence post and rusted wire that had been decorating the entrance to the barn.

On the wildlife front, a New Year’s resolution has us walking Llewellyn to the end of Muddy Creek bridge and back, watching the river harvesting trees on her banks, swelling with the rains, and, to our delight, a river otter appearing just upstream from the bridge. Saw us and immediately submerged. Probably a nutria, scoffed my neighbor. Or mink, maybe. People! It was an otter.

Okay, Larry got the orchard trees pruned and then it was time to spray. While Larry has embraced the concept of out-sorcing the more challenging farm chores, he still reflexively goes straight to “I’ll do it” in many cases. And so it is with orchard spraying. However, copper sulfate, the spray authorized by organic farming, is pretty toxic. Must be applied before fruit buds are set, and the ground beneath the trees has to be protected. As you can imagine, no chickens can be present during the operation. So spreading the tarps, managing the fussy spray applicator, took more hours than the day has light. Had to be carried over to the following day, but he did it. Our trees are now safe from the fungal blight that has threatened the very life of one apple, one cherry tree.

Now the fun part. We had a long visit with Bill Peterson, Landscape Guy. We have wanted to add a couple of trees to the entrance gate at the lower end of the driveway, and at the point where the driveway gravel gives way to the courtyard gravel up by the house. Bill’s crew is good to go, we just have to see which trees he can source. Probably Japanese cherry up top and mountain hemlock by the road. Hold on! Just Googled mountain hemlock. Huge. We want an evergreen conifer, but? Maybe there’s a smaller cultivar? Will check. Anyway, the work will also continue on our path through the oak copse. And, just in time, the clouds are gathering. Won’t be as much fun to watch from under an umbrella. Just kidding about the umbrella.

Been thinking about our mission here. The plan is for Ryan to spray the low field along Llewellyn, then plant fescue or other forage. But our sprayed fields have been slow to green up this fall and winter. I begin to wonder if we haven’t strayed from the idea of improving the soil and veered instead to the raising of beef. The point of grazing is to manage the savanna/oak landscape, keep the grasses in check without fire or tractor power. But. How much spraying is too much? Yes, we have to reclaim the land from invasives, but has the cart gotten out in front of the horse? The whole plan is Fish & Wildlife conceived, so we have, in the vastness of our inexperience and stunning lack of knowledge, agreed. I think about our little otter, and the herons hunting frogs in the neighbor’s field, who have not yet tested our new pool but I have seen them contemplating a visit. What’s best for them?

Now Larry’s lovely chile is simmering on the stove. Chile Colorado, a Christmas gift recipe from daughter Jenny. I can hear the first raindrops and smell the bread rising. He prunes and sprays. He cooks, he bakes! Lucky me!

2019

Name’s Rhoda. Not Edith, or whatever those humans-slash-people been calling me. Fuck’s sake. What kind of name is Edith? I’m hatched in Rhode Island, which isn’t even an island, in case you didn’t know. Rhode Island Red and proud of it. So I live here with my flock, which is Sally and Henrietta. Sally’s Barred Rock, so, salt of the earth. Good layer, knows which way’s up, so to speak. Henrietta, different story. All right most of the time, but every now and then gets up on her feathers and says she’s French. Gonna fly away from here, go where a bird can tell a grub from a slug, like who the fuck cares.

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Our employees, those humans what work for us, come and go. And it’s just frigging cold and foggy around here, so our water almost freezes. What do they think, we can just lick the dew? What do they think we pay them for? Anyhow, the rooster-human showed up this afternoon right at laying time and damn if he doesn’t leave the door to the big world, outside the orchard where we live, he leaves it open. We’re telling Henrietta here’s your chance, go! Me and Sally were sure she’d make a break, which means, as you know, treats all around when they have to go chase her back. But no. Too cold, she whines. Annoying.

Just remembered something: This human who was around here last week when our humans were not, asked me if chickens have lips. How would I know? Lips? Never heard of them.

Jane here. Apologies to those of you who may be offended by Rhodie’s language. Salty little thing, thinks she’s tough. And of course, she’s right about her name. Edith was totally wrong, and although she probably won’t like me calling her Rhodie, she’s really not tough at all. First one up for treats, but both Sally and Hen push her around a bit. Still, I thought you’d like to hear from her.

And about the question of chickens and lips? I found this archival article in the Times on the subject:

“Some months ago, at a dinner party, toward the end of the evening, a young woman asked a young man, ‘Will I see you tomorrow?’ The young man replied, ‘Does a chicken have lips?’ That was the sum total of their exchange. She seemed to understand exactly what he meant. Was mystified and fascinated. He could have meant yes, no, maybe, unfortunately, impossible, or it all depends on the constellations of the Zodiac.”

Now we know. Or don’t. Maybe.

Larry has been wanting to prune the orchard trees, and, as Rhodie noted, today was his first chance for weeks. We got home from Black Butte at noon, and though it was foggy indeed, he was able to get to the little pie cherry tree before he had to go consult with Grant (Fence Guy) about the plan for fencing around the barn. Grant will start the project tomorrow morning, so the year is off to a good start. Part of the job will be to haul the ugly piles of old fencing posts and wire which have been decorating the approach to the barn all summer. Hooray!

We’ve been wanting to start on the burning piles, but the ensuing fires would be huge. In the past we’ve hired a man with a bulldozer to do the fires, but the current piles don’t seem to meet the threshold for bringing in a professional, at least in Larry’s head. He’s probably right, it would be fine, but Grant told him that the big pile, by the barn, would be too close to the fence. We’d have to build a smaller fire on the other side of the driveway and thus burn the big one piecemeal.
That feels better!

And Larry did leave the coop door open as part of our plan to see if the birds will expand their territory, and if so, will continue to lay eggs in the provided nests in the coop. They’ve been pretty hard on the orchard grass, and we’d be happy to have them branch out. At least so long as they come home at “laying time” and at night. But they didn’t budge this afternoon. And so our education continues.

This evening we ran into town to the bookstore to complete our Christmas shopping, this time for David and Caroline. We think they’re at home in Kailua now, able to retrieve a package. We think. And now Day One of the newest year is nearly over. Fire burning some of our endless oak wood, nice memories of Christmas in Sun Valley, of New Year’s with friends, and with package from Altadena to open.

Cheers!

CHRISTMAS LETTER?

“Hey, you didn’t send out a Christmas letter this year.”

Yes, I know, but . . .

“Why not?

It’s just that . . .

“Your family and friends will think you don’t care about them in this time of love and . . .”

Stop! I love my family and friends. I’m sorry. Will you just listen? Christmas letters are usually about what has happened over the course of the year, and I already wrote about anything interesting. I have no more stories to tell.

“You could have sent cards. Didn’t have to be a whole letter. Just sayin’.”

Okay. You’re right. Merry Christmas to everyone within the sound of my computer, and best wishes for an adventurous, rewarding, fun-filled 2019.

We’ve been enjoying a crisp, beautiful fall, apparently borrowed from some other, possibly New England, state, with sunshine, frosty mornings, blue skies. But the rains have come now, and we’re settling in for the winter. Not sure what that means. Settling in?

But the winds have knocked the flower pots off the porch, blown over another two trees that we know of. The rain has begun to fill the “vernal pool” dug by Fish and Wildlife and, we hope, the creeks that feed it. The pastures have begun to green up, offering the hope that the cows will soon be back. The rather astonishing burn piles can be set afire now, soon as we come back from the holidays.

I’m in Portland, but Larry has gone to the farm after our Christmas celebration with the Ederers in Sun Valley. Our friendly neighbor Carl, who volunteered to care for the chickens, reported that he’d collected 10 eggs during his tenure, and Larry has just called to inform me that he’s picked up 10 more. Whew. The egg-collecting apron that Jenny gave me for Christmas will apparently see some good action. Thought chickens were supposes to stop laying in the dark months.

We’ve become addicted to watching the Great British Baking Show, and as a result, Larry has begun to produce some gorgeous loaves of bread. Who knew? Thing is, two people can only eat so much bread, and it might be better if he developed an art form that used eggs instead. Of course, two people can only eat so many eggs, as well, so there we are.

Now we’re off to Black Butte for the traditional celebration with our friends, hoping for some serious snow, lots of good food, laughs, stories, everything that makes the holidays complete. Happy New Year!

DECEMBER

A cold winter morning and the frost lies hard on the land. This is like Minnesota! Larry says, approving. Minnesota is not easy, I think, but keep the thought to myself, because it is beautiful, actually euphoric. I mean, look at it:

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Christmas cookies! The tree waiting out on the porch to come inside and be strung with lights! But first, we need to check on the chickens. We arrived last night after dark, and have faith that the girls are tucked into their warm roost, and that there will be two days of eggs. The girls need a little love in the form of dried corn, so out we go. To find that their watering tray has frozen over. Not good. (Six eggs, by the way.)

Here’s the thing. We have to go over to Black Butte to turn off the water, move the deck furniture into the garage, make the beds and dust the corners, chores that should have been done a month ago and can wait no longer. Especially the water thing. We plan to head on over, but are constrained by the weather report, which tell us that the next few days here in Corvallis will also be cold. Chickens need their water. We break the ice, scatter the corn, and decide to go to Wilco in order to see what solutions they may have.

Which is when we learn that the gate across our drive has stuck open. Sigh. Can’t run off to Black Butte with the gate wide open. Larry calls Applegate to ask for a tech to come by. The “gal” will check with the tech, currently out on a call, get back to us. We decide to proceed to Wilco, with a stop, first, for a restorative pumpkin-spice latte. Larry’s enthusiasm for this Minnesota weather has diminished, one might say, judging from the annoyed frown. Gal comes back on the phone to tell us, with steely resolve, that the earliest we can get tech assistance will be January 4. What! We can’t leave our gate open for a month! We’re going to Sun Valley for Christmas, but Larry wisely doesn’t explain that to her majesty.

Well, one thing at a time. Imagining how we might drag one of the many farm gates, lying about the property, across the drive, secure it with chain and padlocks, we go to the Costco of the farm world. If Wilco doesn’t have it . . . And they do. We are assigned to the care of “Darren” who leads us through consideration of plastic watering jug, which we innocently purchased last summer, versus metal. Of heating bases and/or cubes, of extension cords and their diminishing power over their length (100 yards, in our case). Of water nipples (really) or trays. Will our chickens learn how to use the nipples? Who knows? How would we know? With a sigh, we purchase a new system and return to install it.

We’ve decided that Larry will have to go to Black Butte alone while I stay here to monitor the open-gate situation and the chicken-water situation. Honestly, I say, to cheer Larry (this rarely works) let’s be glad the gate is stuck open! We get the watering system installed, and Larry prepares to leave. He will phone me from the bottom to let me know if the gate has miraculously recovered, but I decide to ride down and walk back up instead. We are both astonished to find that, in fact, the gate has indeed repaired itself and is now firmly closed. But will it open to let Larry leave? Yes! Apparently the mechanism has simply frozen, now thawed, and all is well. We decide that Larry will go on without me anyway and I will, instead, work out what to do with the dozen-or-so-and-counting eggs now in the basket.

Ice cream! I find a recipe using 5 egg yolks! A score, because now I will have 5 egg whites I can use for Vanilla Strips, a beloved Christmas cookie involving ground filberts.

P.S., Larry went over and back, and got home in time for a late chicken stew dinner. No, we don’t plan to murder our chickens and turn them into stew when the time comes, though that had been the topic of conversation at dinner with friends Sunday night. They laugh at the idea of Larry wringing a chicken’s neck, or using the hatchet-on-a-stump method. We will see, won’t we?

Now Wednesday morning, I pull on my flannel shirt (thanks again, Nancy) and head out to learn if our new watering system has succeeded. Fingers crossed!

HENRIETTA, ACT II

What? I hear clucking? Not possible. I’m in the kitchen, well, cooking eggs as a matter of fact. So I’m imagining things, right? No. I do hear clucking. I can’t hear the coop from my kitchen, so, what? I look out the window at the coop and see only Edith. Apparently Sally has escaped somehow.

Into my boots, dried corn in hand, I head around to the back of the house, and OMG. It’s Henrietta?!! This isn’t possible! But there she is. Feathers ruffled alright. ??? I coax her back to the coop, where Edith and Sally, anticipating the corn, shrug, move over and let Henrietta’s head join theirs in the cup.

What the hell happened here? No clue. Feathers strewn in the orchard? Maybe she’s molting? But the closed door, the night outside in the frost? Make that three nights for Mademoiselle Henrietta. Really, maybe an owl and she escaped? We’ll never know. Maybe she’s just laughing at us, thinking we can secure the orchard? Has she learned a lesson? I expect Sally may have something to say about all this. We’ll see.

Anyway, who was it who said rumors of his death had been exaggerated? Sorry, everyone. Now, back to the skillet and my scorched eggs. Hooray! ! !

HENRIETTA’S GONE, GOODBYE

This morning I have to tell you that our little French hen has been taken into the Great Chain of Being. I suppose it must have been an owl, though I am not a chicken-crimes forensic specialist. I should not privilege one bird above another, and am glad it was not a skunk or weasel that took her, but I can’t escape a feeling of responsibility. I depended on the work of the automatic door, which somehow failed and left the chickens out in the orchard all frosty night, exposed and cold. Why didn’t I check last night to be sure all was well? Aaargh!

It wasn’t quite daylight when I walked by the far window with my coffee and saw the dark forms huddled against the far fence. What the heck? Slogged into my boots and made the discovery. No body, no blood, just feathers, and two frost-bitten sad survivors, who didn’t run to greet me as they always do. Their feathers were icy, and the door to the coop resolutely still closed. Don’t know how to warm a chicken (no jokes about the microwave here, let’s be sensitive) but called Larry, back in Portland, retrieved the red thumb-push which opens the auto door and teased Edith and Sally inside with some corn. I hope they found their way up to the warm straw-carpeted roost.

Lesson learned.

Now I’ll have to tell Pat. See, the lovely, generous Pat Hills has volunteered to chicken-sit while we’re away in CA for Thanksgiving. She stopped by on Saturday to get the instructions for their care. She had reached the farm ahead of me, and I found her just coming in from the orchard. She’d been taking the chickens for a walk around the orchard, teaching them a song. Seriously, isn’t that the best? We’d thought we’d just depend on the auto-door while she’s here, but now I’ll have to teach her how to manage it manually each night. I hate to tell her about Henrietta, though.

And why was I late getting here on Saturday? Larry and I had met at Charbonneau to visit an open-house, our first foray into the inevitable move from the Portland condo. No, dear Reader, we did not like the open-house condo, and Larry has proposed another scenario we’ll have to consider. How about renting a place in Charbonneau? No commitments. Hmm. A visit to the Web reveals a rental option there that doesn’t look terrible on line. Sigh. Here’s the thing. This weekend, Larry has stayed in Portland so that he can get to his monthly Monday breakfast with the boys from Columbia Mgmt. He has said repeatedly that he will not give up his normal Portland life in favor of the farm. That means golf at Pumpkin every Sunday, breakfasts with his friends, Symphony, Center Stage, random visits with our buddies, coffees with various members of the community who look to us for donations. And so on. Just the urban scene. Fine.

But it’s getting harder, as he is, I believe, ever more deeply engaged down here. Now, this stretch of urban life was to include breakfast with another set of old work colleagues on Tuesday morning. But we’d bought tickets to an activity here called Pub Talks (I think. That doesn’t sound right) for Monday evening. Let’s see. Drive down Monday, back to Portland whenever for Tuesday breakfast? Tough call. He gets frustrated and angry. I don’t know how to help.

But here I am, alone on another frosty morning, biting myself on the butt about Henrietta, and I’d still rather be here than anywhere else in the world.

Short post, no photos. Back soon. Love, Jane