MARCH

Came in like a lion? Well, yeah, but I have nothing to add to all that has been said about our situation this March, so will simply go on to describe life at our farm.

I was walking up the driveway on Wednesday, noticed this truck backing up. We already had 5 new cow/calf pairs in the pasture, but apparently more were on the way and I was going to get to watch them unload.

I asked Jake, the driver, how old this baby is, thinking a couple of weeks. Nope, born yesterday. Seriously!

Here’s Momma, with another baby right behind. Mom’s a little behind on her hygiene, or maybe dirt happens when you’re riding in a cattle truck, but you’ll get an idea of how tiny the babies are.

They’re at home now in the pasture directly around the barn, where our wild daffodils are, at the moment, in bloom.

The weather is so gorgeous just now — low thirties at night, sixty in the afternoon. Too bad most of my chores take place inside. Yes, we did pay them anyway, but our cleaning ladies are on hold for awhile. I hope they’re enjoying this time off, despite everything.

But with all the fruit trees in bloom, the birds making nests, it’s clear that Mother Nature is simply ignoring the virus and bringing spring anyway. Thank you!

A story: our dear friends Ursel and Epi Scheffler, with whom we sailed the Baltic in 2018, sent us a note with a photo from Brazil where our same ship is touring South America. A later note informed us that the ship was experiencing the familiar cruise-line misfortune, at anchor outside Manaus, Brazil, with passengers unable to disembark. Even though no-one on board has tested positive for corona, the Brazilian government deemed them too dangerous to allow them to travel to the airport for their flights back to Germany. So they will now be sailing across the Atlantic, hoping to find a welcome harbor in Hamburg. Quite an adventure, one I’m amazingly grateful that I don’t share!

Another story, this one funny, has our friend Dick Edwards in his garden planting his onion sets. With his knee replacements, he was doing the job sitting on a bench or stool, tipped over backwards, twice, and reflected on how silly an old man can be. Our resident old man immediately took this as inspiration, and spent the day yesterday preparing the garden for his onion sets.

Today he’s similarly employed creating a screened planting bed for the cabbage and lettuce sets he acquired. This involves plastic tubing, some orchard netting, some boards and staples. This to keep the chickens from treating the new plants as their banquet. They’ve gotten very clever about flying over the gates we’d used last year. I’d show you a photo, but the time lapse between camera and computer mandates that it’s not possible. In any case, a good project to fend off the boredom of quarantine.

Tomorrow the folks from Benton County are supposed to come to add some 600 new trees and shrubs to the stream-side enclosures. The original planting of 6000 experienced a pretty big failure, so we’re hoping for better success with these. Also on the calendar for next week is the arrival of some bee hives, to be managed by Allen, who, you may remember, worked on the landscape. Should be fun.

A note from a vesper-sparrow research team asked if we’d allow them to set up a station on our property with the goal of establishing a colony here. This involves a play-back recording to lure the birds here, and periodic visits from the team to check. As the song of this bird is lovely, hence its name, we of course agreed.

This day has somehow slipped into lunch time. I’ll go check on the garden project, wish you all well, harboring at place in your homes. I hope you can find a way to enjoy this glorious sunshine, though it probably doesn’t include baby calves and intransigent chickens 🙂

NOT YET SPRING

Hey, where you been?

Yeah, I don’t know. Hibernating? On sabbatical? Daylight Savings tomorrow, by the way. It doesn’t look like spring out there, but cheer up!

So, moles are a good place to start today. I mean the moles that live in one’s nice newly-planted grass. Just Googled them, and while I couldn’t get a photo to share with you, they’re just little brown furry creatures, and don’t go thinking they’re cute. Here’s what he/they/it is/are doing to our lawn:

Those little flags indicate the place where our hired expert has placed traps. As we see, the mole is laughing at him. Yesterday Larry gave up and dumped poison down the newer holes, and yet another mound has appeared this morning. Back in the day he would have parked in a folding chair with his shotgun and waited. He didn’t think he’d need the gun when we moved to the city, and so gave it away. Bad decision?

Almost kind-of funny, man here on top of the food chain defeated by this wretched little pest. What he could be finding to eat that’s so delicious in our underlying pottery-grade clay is a mystery, but here we are.

This morning, Larry and Mitchell, our “hand,” are out cleaning up the remaining downed oak — the one that crushed the iron gate earlier this winter. Ryan, Cow Guy, says he’ll be bringing some cow-calf pairs onto the property in a week or so, which has inspired the lumberjack operation currently in progress. We don’t have skills or equipment to fix or replace the gate, so will have to turn that job over to Ryan’s crew.

Mitch is determined to burn the accompanying slash pile, but I’m not seeing any plumes of smoke. The county informs us of the dates and hours on which we are allowed to burn, and today’s the day. Not exactly raining, but the air is heavy with sweet Willamette Valley mist. Good luck, Mitch!

The Fish and Wildlife people have been busy spraying the 13 acres they’ve devoted to wild flowers. This means a flotilla of ATVs with boom sprays criss-cross in front and back of the house. I wish they didn’t have to use chemicals — kind-of not the point here, but we have to defer to their knowledge.

Meanwhile, Benton County sent a couple of crews to spray the trees and shrubs they planted along the stream beds. Well, I mean the weeds between the trees and shrubs. So, more spray. Damn. I recently had to complete a health survey (having to do with the fact that my doctor seems to think I’m old or something) and: am I exposed to agricultural poisons? Heck yes. (Do I have small area rugs in my home, etc., she just wants to keep me safe. Bless her heart.) With all this agricultural poison going around, what’s up with that mole?

Okay, the global pandemic. Are we over-reacting, or just being careful? California has declared a state of emergency — what does that mean? Are we going to be able to make our trip to Palm Springs with Tom and Dorsey next week? And why do people think that toilet paper is the one indispensable commodity to stockpile? The jokes have started showing up, so I guess that’s a good sign.

Larry has just returned from the back forty, and we’re heading out to stockpile some groceries for the weekend. Hope I don’t regret taking the virus lightly. You all be safe now, and I’ll see you next time.

SURPRISE !

We’re on our way to meet Amy in Eugene for my birthday dinner, and we’re late because Larry didn’t get started on his bread early enough this morning, and there’s too much traffic because there’s a game at the U and we’re going to a bar in the U district before we head over to the restaurant, and why are we going to a bar anyway because I don’t drink, but we’re supposed to be early because Amy has something to do after and there’s no parking space so I get out and go on in to Taylor’s and there’s Amy who says come on over and meet a couple of my friends, and . . .

Surprise! Happy Birthday! and there is my family, flown to Eugene from LA and Seattle. OMG. I am so surprised! Everyone but David, who of course couldn’t get off work to fly over from Oahu, and Tom and Will, because Will has school. But Andrew and Amy and Charlie and Alli and Peter and Allison and Jenny–and they all don’t believe me that I’m truly surprised, but they did it. All the texting and phone calls under my nose and I had no idea. Wow.

No, children, we do not ask a lady’s age. No, even when it’s her birthday and she’s obviously pretty darn old and shouldn’t she be proud of that? No, my darlings, we don’t ask. And when the affogato dessert comes and there are lit sparklers on it, well, that can’t be helped, but you weren’t there.

Here’s the fun part: Jenny and Alli and Charlie spent the night at the farm, while the others spent the night in Eugene and all came up for breakfast. Sat around playing Scattergories in front of the fire, discussing whether on not there are aliens in space. Conclusion: yes, because the universe is huge beyond our ability to imagine. Thought you’d want to know.

Was this your best birthday ever, Grandma? Yes, and yes.

So it’s the new year, and one of our resolutions is to get off the farm more often and see what Corvallis really looks like. Yesterday there seemed to be a break in the clouds so we bundled up and headed to town. There’s a nice paved walk along the Willamette as it flows through town, so we found a parking space and headed north.

Gray sky, the river is high, lots of ducks, and hey, wait a minute. For my birthday I’d said that I’d like to see if my Verizon contract is mature enough to allow me an upgrade to my phone. My current edition is a 7 and Apple has gone up to 11. My sister, Martha, has a new phone with an awesome camera, and her photos prove it. Here’s a shot of some geese at Black Butte taken over the New Year’s holiday, but you should see Martha’s image taken as the same time. Of course, you can’t, so use your imagination.

So we went to the Verizon store, and found that sure enough, I can get an upgrade, and so can Larry. In fact, they’re having a two for one sale just now on Apples, but if we were to take advantage of that offer, one of us would have to have a new phone number. Hmmm. How much trouble would that be?

I’ll let you know what we decide, but I would like to have a camera with a zoom option.

Meanwhile, back to our exploration of Corvallis, we found a bagel shop in the street across from the river and realized that this has definitely been missing in the experience of our life on the farm. Got some to bring home, and the rain started.

Back at home, the sky clear again, we set out to walk to Muddy Creek and check for river otters or beaver dams, and discovered that we have a new downed tree in one of the north pastures. Luckily, our grandson Andrew is looking for farm work, and may be available to come help saw up this new one.

What do you think, Andrew?

At the moment, yes, it’s raining again, and I have to get this off to the ether and go make our late lunch/early dinner. Heading to Portland for a quick overnight for Larry’s Monday-morning-breakfast-with-the-guys and my stop in at the needlepoint shop to get my new canvas framed.

Next adventure: Molokai with friends a visit with David. Sunshine!

DECEMBER

One of those gray, foggy days. The fog lifts to reveal low, gray clouds that settle in for the duration. Dark Sky says it’s 46 degrees, feels like 46 degrees. So, December. But the solstice is behind us and the light is on the way back.

This is a story about an obsession. Larry, who has been diagnosed by his wife as borderline OCD, has set about the learn the art and craft of bread making. While of course I support this challenge, the on-the-ground take away is that we’ve had to eat a lot of learning curve. “Oh dear God,” I have been heard to say, “you’re baking another loaf?”

See, he’s been in thrall to Paul Hollywood — he of the Great British Baking Show — okay I just looked up “thrall” and learned that a thrall was a slave or serf in the Scandinavian lands back when. Did you already know that? Anyway, Larry’s journey eventually took him to the world of sour dough. We took a field trip to watch a demonstration at a flour mill/bakery down the way in Junction City. It was interesting, though neither of us particularly liked the bread the artisan created that night. We bought some of the mill’s bread flour, and the following attempt was fairly dismal.

Then Larry discovered Michael Pollan’s book, “Cooked.” His procedure is somewhat like that of the Junction City fellow and Paul H, and the next iteration by L was comical to watch, but damned if the bread wasn’t good. Really good!

A few more tweaks and here we are:

As usual, the computer won’t allow me to correct the orientation of the photo. I apologize, but this was awesome bread. I have not, by the way, been able to find a person in the area who speaks Word Press, so we just have to live in a sideways world.

Changing the subject, here’s another photo. Sideways? I’m about to find out:

This is Mitch, our new “hand.” He’s an employee of our landscape guy who’s looking for extra work during the landscape slack season. He recently married a woman with three small children, as in 3,4, and 5, and the two of them added one of their own to the tribe. So yeah, he needs the work. He’s amazing. Strong, hard-working, and he actually shows up. Here’s the result of the last two day’s labor:

Right. We needed more firewood, but here’s what the tree looked like on the ground:

It had crashed into and broken one of the internal fences and its farm gate, so it had to be sawn in order for the fence to be repaired.

I note that these photos arrived right-side up, so whatever.

As it happened, we were going to be here alone over the Christmas holiday, as our 3 families had plans that did not include the farm. Jenny and family would be in Palm Springs with the Ederers (their turn), David and Caroline would be in New Zealand, and the Peter Viehls at home in Pasadena. We’re fine by ourselves, but at dinner with friends in Portland, also alone over the day itself, we made a plan to see a movie and then go eat Chinese.

We got tickets to see Little Woman, the only film that we could fit into the schedule. Probably not the best movie ever, especially not when viewed from 4 rows back, the best seats we could find. But we all looked forward to dinner at P.F.Chang’s. Closed. Really? The next two restaurants in the area were either too busy, or out of food already. We finally found a spot in a bar that had just opened, two tables in the kitchen area, nice, super loud music, and, surprise, great sliders, wings, fries. Christmas dinner? We can do better, but it was fun and funny and the Pierces are good friends.

Speaking of Christmas, here’s my present from Larry this year:

It looks like the same stone that provided the wall. The birds should be happy — I know I am.

We leave tomorrow for Black Butte. Snow? We’ll see. See you next year!

NOVEMBER

Just sitting here in Portland in the sunshine waiting for the tech from the gas company, who’s scheduled to come fix whatever is wrong with the gas fireplace in the condo. Service window from 12 noon to 4:00. Love the specificity.

But what’s going on at the farm? When I left to come up here this morning, Allen and crew were at work, transforming the scrubby area in front of the orchard to a grassy extension of lawn. This is Larry’s brainchild, and I think it’s going to be great. The area in question is the residue of the house-builder’s efforts with a bulldozer to level the site for the house. Leaving behind a scraped wasteland upon which nothing but a few anemic weeds have grown.

A little excitement yesterday when a passer-by reported to Animal Control that one of our cows was wandering down Llewellyn toward the bridge. See, we don’t really know what to do about this. The cow, or calf, certainly isn’t going to come along when we call. But we took the ATV down to see what the heck? The fence is pretty impenetrable — wire mesh topped with barbed wire, and the farm gates are closed with steel link chain.

On our way, we were greeted by Ms. Animal Control, who joined us at the site, and agreed that there was no way an animal could have breeched the enclosure. How many animals do we have?

Good question. We call Ryan. He says 20, 10 moms, 10 calves. We count 18. Two missing? No way two animals could be strolling down the street toward the creek. So Ms. A C leaves, assuring us that passers-by often call in when they misinterpret what they see, that cows, being herd animals, would be in a panic to rejoin their herd if they were indeed loose. Okay. We go back up to the house. We resume working. And then, there they were. All 20 cows, peacefully grazing in the adjoining pasture.

Not an exciting end to the story, but it did remind us that we are so clueless!

Here’s what we’ve been doing this month:

You can make out the fence under the fallen branches. This is along Muddy Creek, near the road, in front of an acre or so of land that is, weirdly, ours. Some earlier owner ran a fence on this line, probably because the land between it and the creek is a thicket of ash, poison oak, and unidentified weeds.

The fence was bent, but in place, so the effort to clear the branches was in service of esthetics, really. We have found, however, that untended windfall like this invites blackberry to come on over and colonize, so there is rational cause to clear, other than the pleasure of future bonfires and tidiness.

Took us three days to accomplish this. As you see, waiting down at the corner is another tree down, but that’s for another day. The thing is, we have to work when we can still drive the truck down there. This is wetland, so hard to say how long we have. We’ll try when we get back from California, and Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, when the rains do come and the county gives the go-ahead, here’s what we have ahead:

We’ll haul the firewood up to the shed, then torch the piles. Fun. Come on down. Bring your boots and raincoats.

It was bound to happen:

“JANE!”

“YEAH?”

“I’M LOCKED IN THE COOP!”

Okay, mustn’t laugh. “COMING!” Seems the cord thingy which enables a person inside the coop to spring the latch, should the door accidentally close, had gotten tangled. Right, you want to know why Larry was in the coop in the first place.

“What were you going to do if I’d happened to be inside, didn’t hear you? If I didn’t have my phone around?”

“Sleep with the chickens? Wait for you to miss me?”

Somehow it has become his job to clean the coop. A most noble undertaking, rather unpleasant. But there it is. Fine with me.

And what am I doing while Larry is heroically doing farm chores? The funny thing is, that life on the farm continues to have inside chores as well. Laundry. Cleaning. Cooking. Who knew?

Luckily, I do love to cook. One of the fun things is that one can’t just pop down to Safeway if one runs out of, say, butter. So there’s been a slight shift, in which I’m challenged to create a meal out of what’s on hand. What needs to be used up.

For instance. Last week I had one leek, a frozen slice of prosciutto, and of course, frozen chicken broth, in the larder. Found a recipe requiring all of the above. Didn’t have the required endive, but on the next trip to town, procured a half pound. Endive soup! Sounds a bit effete, something you might expect at a la-de-da dinner party, but it was really good.

Then, there was the smoked salmon chowder. Had a piece of the salmon slouched in a back corner of the freezer. Came from Eva’s husband, Mr. Outdoors himself. Only 3 years old. What if I made chowder with it and the sweet potato that obviously wasn’t going to be eaten any time soon? Must report that nothing I could do could save that yuck-o bowl of orangeness. Liquid smoke? Horseradish? White wine? Nope. One for the garbage disposal, and an inch off my self-congratulation exercises.

I’ll be in Portland until Monday, when we board the train for Los Angeles and the family Thanksgiving. Just can’t keep running up and down I-5 for no good reason, so here I am. Taking one for the team. In the meantime, hope that Gas Co. tech shows up. Been an hour and a half. Grrr . . .

But best wishes to you all for a happy holiday. See ya!

A LOT OF CRAZY

The whole thing started when Susan, our realtor for selling the condo, suggested that some prospective buyers were horrified at the amount of gardening they might inherit should they buy the place.

There is a lot of plant life out on the terrace, thanks to Kate Bryant, whose green thumb and hard work have made quite a show. And yeah, I wouldn’t want to take care of all that, either. But hey, we can use a lot of those pots down here at the farm, just needed to haul them down.

And for that sort of thing, we have Bob-the-Truck. Bob smells of the generations of mice who have lived and died under those faux leather seats and duct tape, so not a pleasant prospect, riding 100 miles up the freeway. Can’t listen to music, story, as Bob is not so equipped. Conversation is difficult thanks to the noise, so we have only scenery and our private thoughts to amuse us on the way.

A note to explain that you can’t get where you’d like to go in Portland lately with all the new construction, street alterations, bikes, scooters, pedestrians, and of course, all the other cars and trucks and busses. Bob is a country truck, with pretty bad manners and an attitude about parking, so that was fun.

A dozen five gallon, two feet tall, black plastic “ceramic” pots full of geraniums and what not, seven smaller clay pots, and three fat feedbags full of flowers we’d dug out of pots too large to relocate later, we were on the way. We thought about all those flowers on the freeway at 70 per and decided to go the back way down 99E.

An unfortunate electric outage, causing chaos at every traffic light, made the the atmosphere in the cab a little testy, but we made it. Here’s a photo of our arrival at the farm.

It was a lot worse than it looks! But at least you can meet Bob, whom you may have forgotten.

So with brute force, a wheelbarrow, not a little profanity, we got the pots resettled and the transplants bedded down along the wall of the garden. Here are some of the newcomers by the front door.

And here are the assorted transplants looking forward to a life spent in actual dirt. Stay tuned.

We planned to spend a few days in a hotel in Half Moon Bay in California, just below San Francisco. A family gathering! Everyone able to come! Larry and I would drive, as is our wont, so began a day early. The signs were definitely there, but we chose to hope for the best. High winds anticipated in northern California. Fire danger extreme.

We had spent the night in Portland, and would begin our trip from there. But it was about right near Corvallis that I realized I’d left my phone in Portland. Damn. Stupid. Could I live a week without my phone? Yeah, well, no. So we have these good friends (you know them, Vik and Gordon) and they could go into our condo and retrieve the phone. We met them at a Starbucks in Wilsonville, picked up the phone, and they headed East for the film festival in Bend, we back on our way south.

We made it to Grants Pass, right at the bottom of Oregon before we heard from Peter that our hotel had no electricity. PG&E had decided to shut off service in areas threatened by fire. Remember last year? A few phone calls and we learned that yes, we had no electricity in the town of HMB, but the hotel was providing flashlights in the bedrooms. Restaurants? Service stations? Well, no, but.

So we bailed. Fortunately all the kids could cancel their flights. The hotel cancelled our reservations. If you have to turn around, Grants Pass is a good place in which to do it, because they have — an In ‘n’ Out Burger there ! ! ! The farthest north that franchise has yet seen fit to expand ! ! !

But our bags were packed, the chicken sitter was in place, what should we do instead? By about Eugene we had realized that we could spend a few days at Black Butte. Yes, we have a chicken sitter, but calm down. That just means she comes by every few days to gather eggs and be sure the water/food situation is okay. Seriously. You people.

Turned right at Eugene and made it to Black Butte by nightfall. This meant we had driven 550 miles in the state of Oregon to arrive 125 miles from home. Nice job, huh?

Larry checked his phone the next morning and was pretty surprised to see a cow wandering in the yard back home on the farm. We have this wild-life camera that so far has caught a few cats, a raccoon, but with this sighting has proved its worth. We do have cows alright, but they are contained in one or another of the pastures, so what the heck? A quick call to Ryan, owner of the cows, and luckily he answered. Was able to turn from his own trip out of town, go herd the herd back behind the fence, close the open gate, and all was well. The garden is mostly put to bed by now, but what about our new plants along the fence? We wouldn’t know until we got home. Most people don’t have these things to worry about as they leave for a vacation, but we do.

A really nice time with Martha and our buddies for a few days and we arrived home. I walked into the kitchen and discovered that we had no water. Oh, man. A little history there, so this was sobering. Nope, cistern full, Larry reported. Valves all turned on in the water purification system in the shed. Okay, see I’m tired, now. And yes, we could get back in the car and head to Portland, but first, we called the pump guy. It’s Monday. It’s a holiday. Of course he doesn’t answer. Larry went out to check one more time and found the one valve he’d overlooked. Oh thank God, we have water!

And yet, it wasn’t hot water. Larry went to the garage to check the GFI for the water heater, and bingo. But don’t celebrate yet. The freezers are on the water heater line and yep. How long had they been without power? Well, the meat seemed hard although the waffles had slumped.

I think it’s about time for another photo. Larry “harvested” these today. The cows had chewed off the tops, but that’s just fine.

I know the photo is sideways, but if you’d be good enough to just tip your head I think you can get the picture. This is what real actual organic home-grown carrots look like. Kind of like people. You know what I mean, right?

Whoa, bed time here. But it’s been nice visiting with you. See you again real soon now!

BACKYARD CHICKENS, not for amateurs

Henrietta, always our over-achiever, head chicken, mean girl, had been looking unwell for a day or so, back feathers dirty and matted, so we consulted our Backyard Chicken books, and determined that we should isolate her to see if the condition improved. Larry got to work and installed some of the fence sections we’d stored against next spring’s project and created a separate inclosure for our sick chicken. Made a little nest, moved one of the watering systems in — looked pretty cosy.

But Henrietta wasn’t having it, thank you. Chickens can fly, of course, and some new fence wasn’t going to keep this girl away from her posse. Okay, then. We closed the other birds into their run/coop and gave Henrietta the run of the orchard. Thought she’d move in to her new digs as the sun went down.

But as it became dark and the other chickens retired for the evening, Henrietta paced the length of the run, tying to join them. So I couldn’t stand it and let her return to the flock for the evening.

Next morning, though, her wound, or whatever was worse. She was apparently, inescapably, egg-bound. Use your imagination. At least, the problem is not contagious, and I returned to my books. Whew. The suggestions there were, well, think about it. A warm epsom-salts bath for 30 minutes? What, how am I going to keep a chicken sitting in warm water for half an hour? I won’t describe the other remedies, one of which was to contact your local vet. Bingo.

Please try to picture the look on the faces of the young women behind the counter of the vet emergency care facility (the only establishment which treats avian patients, i.e. chickens) as this cute little old couple comes in bearing their pet chicken in a cardboard box. Unalloyed delight, was what it was. Barely contained.

For that matter, imagine how well Larry loved this whole affair. But we were shown to a room. Henrietta was quiet, there in her box, and we were amazed at how well the — let’s see — intern? was able to handle her. Even weigh her. Four pounds, fourteen ounces, for the record. It was a busy morning at the vet’s and an hour later it was our turn. Larry had left for lattes when the doctor entered. Didn’t take long. She’d need a scan, X-rays, antibiotics, possible surgery — STOP! No, despite the expectations of the staff who imagined this was our little pet darling, I’m sorry. Would she recover without intervention? No. And no, thank you, we didn’t want the ashes for a little burial ceremony.

So, she is at peace, we presume. Without pain. And we are again short a chicken. Yes, it is sad. I don’t know how the other chickens will fare without their boss-lady.

We determined to pick blackberries late in the afternoon. We’d collected half a bucket when the worst scenario unfolded. Larry dropped the bucket and the berries nestled, taunting us, in the tangled, evil, spiny, vines at our feet. Damn! Okay, start over. We were both bleeding from multiple sites on hands and arms when we finally gave up with half the second bucket full. The vines are at least twenty feet high, and the thought of one of us falling into the briar patch was sobering, to say the least.

But we could hear the thump of the drum as the OSU band warmed up for the evening football game. The late afternoon sun painted everything golden, and I thought there is no where else on earth I’d rather be.

Now, Saturday morning, as I type, I admire my purple hands and blackened nails. To make blackberry jam, it’s necessary to cook down the berries, then suspend them in a cotton towel and squeeze the juice into a bowl. I’ll have to wash a lot of dishes before my fingernails look presentable again. To be honest, I don’t much care.

Tomorrow is Larry’s birthday. We’re going to Eugene to secure hotel reservations for Amy’s graduation next June, then on to the White-Davis Manzanita cabin for the remainder of the Labor Day weekend.

No photos this time: will do better going forward!

WITCHIN’

We’ll start today with some statistics: One adult Black Angus female will drink 2 gallons per hundred pounds of weight per day. Double that amount if lactating.

One well producing 5 gallons per minute will require 8 hours of pumping to provide daily water to 30 lactating cows. We have such a well, those cows, plus 30 some calves and two adult bulls. See where I’m going with this?

Right. We came up dry last Thursday and began to go into panic mode. I began to go there; Larry, of course, was pragmatic. The well would recover. Life would go on.

But in the morning, when the well had not recovered, we put in the call to Ryan. Cows are gonna get thirsty, (and you should hear those cows when they’re unhappy.) Ryan, as always, was on it. The solar pump idea wasn’t working, but he has two tanker trucks and the equipment necessary to get water to his animals. We were now able to turn off the water to the tanks fed by our exhausted well. Here’s what the new system looks like:

You will notice that there are no cows availing themselves of this new water. That’s because they like the old tanks, the ones with the friendly goldfish. It’s where they like to take their afternoon naps. Fortunately, however, the well had resumed pumping to our cistern, and we could again look forward to normal amenities, like showers and the dishwasher.

We’ll get back to this. But in the meantime, we had been noticing a strange circle of vibrant green grass near the orchard. We’d remembered the spring that was discovered at the construction of the fence, and wondered if it was responsible for the lush growth. Did this suggest that there may be an aquifer below which we could tap into for the water we’re missing?

A neighbor, who happens to be an engineer, scoffed at this idea. “You have a leak in your sprinkler system.” End of story. But he was kind enough to give Larry a piece of copper wiring, which could be stripped and made into water-witching rods.

This was fun. You bend the wires into an angle and hold them ahead as you walk, and see what happens. For Larry, nothing. But for me, damned if they didn’t want to cross. It was strange to feel the pull as one rod wanted to cross the other. The wind? Maybe, but the wind didn’t make them cross for Larry. Pretty clear I’m a witch! But were they pointing to a spring or an aquifer?

The neighbors wanted to try their hands at witching, and neither could produce the magic. But nothing would shake Ted’s conviction that a leak was causing the green patch. And to prove it, he, a talented post-hole digger (we all have our gifts) would dig a hole into the area with, as it turned out, a tool Larry had somehow inherited from my dad.

Tried to insert a photo here without success. Sorry, Ted. He is indeed talented at digging holes, and the hole he dug soon filled with water. But from the leak or my spring? Timed passed. We called Jake, our pump guy, who came over on Saturday afternoon to install a switch which would turn off the water to the affected area. Sure enough, the water in the Ted-dug hole dissipated, so yep, a leak, not a spring. But I still maintain that there is a spring, my witching proves it. I went back to my blog in 2015 to find the entry proving its existence and found the reference. Ha.

Larry and I spent the morning today working on the fence destroyed by the downed tree. Missing Peter and Andrew here.

Not easy, requiring tools not in the Viehl tool chest (and no, I’m not speaking metaphorically here), so we adjourned the effort and simply loaded the truck with downed branches, destined for the next fire. The cows, meanwhile, were having a loud, demanding conversation. There was no longer any water in the tanks they prefer, and they were outraged. Finally, following some herd instinct, they began to flow, a black river, down the hill to the next pasture.

When they had all made their way to the correct (according to us) pasture, we were able to shut the system of gates that would lock them out of their favorite lounging site. And this in turn, allows me access to a magnificent stand of blackberries, ripening in the August sun. Feeling a little too pleased with ourselves, we relented and opened the faucet for the one tank within their reach, so that they may continue to enjoy what water our well, may provide.

And, by the way, the chickens are fine. Thanks for asking. See you next time!

SUMMERTIME

Back home from the 2019 edition of Camp Estrogen, held this year at Julie’s Black Butte digs, okay, I’m tired. Six women, five of whom no longer contain any of the eponymous estrogen (one who says they’ll have to pry her precious pills from her fists when she goes to her eternal rest) havin’ fun away from real life for a couple of days.

Among other adventures, we had lunch at Rain Shadow Organic Farms, and when asked if we might buy some eggs, were told that chickens don’t lay at this time of year. It seems, the nice lady told us, that they sense the oncoming cold weather of fall, and egg production stops. Very interesting. No one told my chickens, who continue to lay apace. Maybe this is a regional pattern. We were, after all, across the mountains where it does, indeed, get cold in winter.

Interesting note: Corvallis is a word derived from Latin, meaning Heart of the Valley. Somehow this knowledge improves my appreciation of our town’s name.

Let’s take a break for a couple of photos, artistically arranged:

Larry’s garden has run amuck! So now what? Note, by the way, the basket of farm-fresh eggs. Ha! This is what happens when you run off with your girlfriends, and I’ve been chopping and blanching and freezing for days. In fact, we find that we have to buy an additional freezer for the garage to house the bounty.

I’m not sure how to winter over the delicatas, and the huge cucumbers lurking behind the eggs have taken their place in the great wheel of compost, but the broccoli, zucchini, and cauliflower have been tucked into freezer containers to await, well, something. I’ll figure it out.

And I came back to notice that our herd of cows/calves has expanded. Five white baby calves, very cute, and what seemed to be lots more mommas. Seems Ryan felt the grass of the three pastures where they’ve been hanging out was rich enough to support more animals. About 24 more. Bringing us up to 50 or so. They’re such fun to watch, but what about our water? Remember? Our wells run dry sometimes? We’ve turned off the sprinklers to our lawn and it’s getting appropriately “golden” (it’s a look), but we would like to guarantee our household supply.

So Ryan says that his guy will talk to Green Belt Landtrust about a solar powered system they use to pull water from Muddy Creek. We farmers are allowed to sip from the creek for ag purposes, and if true, could fill a couple of tanks down in the riparian area. I tend to freak about the water situation, so hope that this system can be put in place before we have to call the tanker as per 2 years ago. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tomorrow I’m going to U-pick blueberries with neighbor Terri, departing at 8 in the morning. At least they’re easy to freeze! So, got my tin bucket, my jeans and boots and yeah, it sure feels like summer.

JULY 2019

This is my second attempt at a photo essay by First Grandkid Andrew. The first disappeared into the ether and I have one word for anyone planning to write a blog using Word Press. Don’t.

But, here’s a photo of Andrew, which is not, of course, part of his photo essay:

He came to the farm to work, and here he is hard at it:

He’s shoveling dirt into the old feed trough, which we thought to utilize as a planter. It’s right by the old well, so water is available, and wouldn’t filbert (aka hazelnut) trees be a fun idea?

I changed my mind. It’s too damn hard to manipulate this f-ing app, if that’s what Word Press is, and if there’s an opportunity to post another photo, I’ll give it a shot later when I’ve composed myself.

Last post found us sending David and Caroline off to parts unknown, which materialized as Vancouver BC, where they spent a few weeks before heading back to Hawaii. Right now I believe they’re in England somewhere, but communication is sketchy with these two. If and when they actually move, I’m sure they’ll let us know.

After their visit, Jenny and her family came to the farm for a couple of days. Somehow I didn’t take any photos, which I regret, but at least that means I don’t have to commit a half hour and my usual sweet temperament to post them. I’ll just say it was great fun to see them, to catch up on Alli’s life in Colorado, and at Seattle Prep where Will is a Junior-to-be. Jenny and Tom have purchased a “fixer-upper” and have launched the project with a search for an architect who will understand that a dollar means a dollar. Good luck with that, but miracles do happen.

Peter and Andrew arrived next, to help with the latest downed oak, some tractor work on the above mentioned feed trough, and whatever else occurred to the aged p’s.

Speaking of miracles! I refer to the fact that this photo arrived right-side up and in the right place. Pushing my luck, I try again:

I am so on a roll! Peter at the controls of the trusty John Deere — but as happened in the past, the tractor sprang a hydraulic leak and this particular job came to an ignominious halt. The tractor got hauled away as Larry, who is usually sure he can fix whatever (see next topic) wisely deferred to the local John Deere folk.

Mom and Peter here. Love the cowboy hat!

Peter and Andrew drove off on the 4th — yes, they drive from Altadena — and we sat on the porch enjoying the rare, consecutive visits from our kids. In our rocking chairs. But farm life waits not her tired caretakers. The watering tanks were up to their tricks.

The construction error that cost the life of the calf had been remedied, but the float valve in the operative one declined to shut off the water supply, and, on going to check, we discovered a flood. This, of course, can drain the well, and though we can get along while the well recovers, the cows can’t.

Call Ryan, (cow guy) I say, with an edge of hysteria.

“I can fix it,” says Larry.

Oh God. Yes, he probably can fix a stupid float valve, but . . .

“Look, it’s simple. You just have to . . .”

A day goes by. The fix endures, until it doesn’t Another flood. This is not, dear readers, Larry’s fault. It finally required a real true plumber and a whole new system.

But in working with the tank, we’d seen a scummy slimy forest of algae in the tank. Goldfish to the rescue:

Ten “feeders” who bring the number of our personal livestock to thirteen. So far as we can tell, they’re doing a very good job. Don’t know how they feel about cows sucking up their water, but we can hope that they will thrive.

We made a dash to Black Butte to make up the beds for the Hawley family who will be staying there for a week, starting the 16th. As their time corresponds exactly with Camp Estrogen, and as Camp E will be held at the Ball family home there, it will be fun to finally get a chance to meet Jutka and the kids.

On Monday, we were lucky to be on the southbound trail of Ellen Banks and her new beau, George. Ellen is technically our grand-niece-in-law, but she has always been one of our grandkids in our hearts. She lives and works in New York where she met her lovely Scottish boyfriend. They’re driving down the coast to Pasadena, then back to New York. Yes, driving to New York. Kids!

Back now at the farm, alone again, we’re enjoying a spell of rain-ish weather. Actually welcome, as we have time to figure out how we’ll be watering the new plants down at the gate. Plants heretofore watered by the old fashioned bucket and pail system. Can you buy a two-hundred foot hose? I’ll let you know.