All posts by janeviehl.com

JULY 9 – 10

Surprise! Another post already? Right. It’s been an interesting couple of days.

Starting with my morning walk down the road yesterday. Just over the last rise before the gate, there was a calf looking at me. From my side of the fence. Hmm. How’d that happen? It’s momma was mooing furiously at both of us, though I’m not sure this was the actual mother or simply a busy-body from the whole herd.

Okay so I have no idea what to do here. No idea how he got out, and the fence is electric so I’m not about to attempt any return heroics.

I know what you’re thinking. First one of their chickens, now a calf? Yes, but to continue. The concern is amplified because our driveway gate has been stuck open the last few days, and thus Little Calf can get himself down onto Llewellyn and on into the great world.

Of course, I have my phone and immediately call up home to Larry with the news, and he calls Ryan, Cow Guy equally immediately. Who is, fortunately, still at home a couple of miles away, and soon on his way to us. Larry gets the ATV and heads down to help with the rescue.

Naturally, Ryan knows how to herd a wayward calf, and the baby is soon reunited with his mother and the other 50 or so in the herd. Sidebar: the herd, which has been 11 pairs, has been expanded to some much larger number. They have access to all the pastures, so we have no idea how many animals are sharing the 100 acres with us just now.

Ryan has a device which can tell him where the break in the circuit, which enabled the calf to simply slip through the fence, was located. Turns out the problem was up here by the house at an opening we use to get down to the bees. Problem solved, and Ryan was on his way.

And now the story becomes about the bees. But not our bees. A great swarm was blocking the way into our barn. Thousands, Larry says. Seems that in dismantling the hive apparatus, he’d found that some number of frames still had honey in them. They were boxed and left in the barn to await the time when they’d go up to join the hive up under the oak tree. But those marauding thousands had found this easy source of energy and were robbing the honey. That’s what it’s called. You honestly would not attempt to enter the barn or get within 10 feet of it. (Btw, I had to look up how to spell marauding — now you don’t have to.)

Fortunately, there’s a man at the neighborhood garden shop that could give advice, and the shop was open on Sunday. Larry had to suit up, plunge in, lift the trays out of the frames and shake the non-local bees off. Apparently this wasn’t too impossible, and seems to have worked. At least, we now have custody of our barn again.

Later that afternoon, Larry decided to pick berries and bring them in:

Found an onion, as well, you’ll notice. These raspberries joined a supply already in the kitchen and out in the freezer. I found a site on line promising recipes for 50 things to make with raspberries, starting with custard-filled chocolate eclairs. Well yes, that would use few berries, plus 4 eggs and a cup of chocolate chips. Delicious, I sure, but it seemed the only realistic thing to do here on Planet Earth was make jam:

Done. First batch. I’ll see what the site has to offer for the second thing to make with raspberries. Maybe tomorrow.

We’d decided we’d go out to lunch today, trying out The Brass Monkey, which had been closed the first time we’d attempted to learn a bit about our city and what it has to offer. It’s down on 1st, and wow, lunch time on Monday? Packed.

Here it is:

It was fun, good sandwiches, but didn’t feel like our place to settle in. Will keep looking. In a long conversation while waiting for our lunch, we had the thought that, in this post-pandemic, peculiar gender-confusing/confused era, no-one knows who he/she/they is, or is supposed to be. Thus has to invent himself (forgive un-sensitive use of pronoun) from scratch. Actually from birth on. Nobody to tell you you’re one thing or another. Up to you. Hence the girl with her face tatooed (maybe a girl)(person with a vagina?) Is this a good thing? Is everyone up to inventing himself? A tough job.

This is just for fun. You get to guess. How much money is in this mixed-nut jar? It weighs 10+ pounds. We stopped at the bank to get coin sleeves, and have begun the job of stacking the coins in the little paper envelopes. This will take a while.

I’ll let you know next time.

SUMMER!

But first, a little P.S. Those picturesque hay bales from last time?

Ooops:

But yes, summer is here. First job today was to clean house after the little family of sparrows who chose to build a nest and raise their children on the roll of screening tucked under the eaves of the north porch. We watched them fledge and learn to fly. We counted four in the nest, but six eventually flew away, and we felt quite proud of them. Except, um, the mess?

Second on the list was to cull the developing apples from the 5 trees in the orchard. This should give you the idea:

I think I’m showing you the honey crisps, but the wheelbarrow is holding the excess from 3 trees that we had energy to thin this morning. It feels completely wrong to be picking those beauties, but the trees are too young to support a huge crop. Plus, I mean, I’m going to have to peel, core, slice and freeze the ones we can’t eat out of hand. Unless you want to come and pick some for your family? Which, yes, do, come on down. We’ll let you know when they’re ripe.

Okay, big mistake. I should have started this post by telling you about our triumph, dept. of chickens. So you know about this one Speckled Sussex who had become a little escape artist.

We thought we had 3 options. Off with her head, but neither of us could be the hatchet man. Take her to the vet and risk mortification at the spectacle of two cute old people bringing in their pet chicken for a clip and trim. Or, 3, put an ad in the Neighborhood News for a peripatetic chicken who only occasionally lays an egg. If you’re wondering why we couldn’t just let her be out, it’s because she doesn’t seem to be able to get herself back in at night. That would be cruel.

So, boot up You Tube. You can learn anything there, including how to clip your chicken’s wings. Here’s how that worked. We got her into a corner by handing out dried worms. Larry picked her up and, following the guidelines, spread out her wing. I clipped the flight feathers with my sewing scissors (the only sharp-enough ones we could find), and after flapping about in Larry’s unexpecting arms, she set about her business of unearthing bugs, unaware, we assume, that she’s no longer free to wander. (Where was my phone when I needed the camera?) Btw, one need clip only one wing; chickens can’t fly lopsided.

So far, three days later, she’s still confined to quarters. Excellent!

But I was discussing today’s chores. We had enlisted Mitch to build us some planter boxes for the north porch. He did, but the painter, his brother-in-law, never showed up (this happens in the country some times), so Larry undertook to finish the job.

Now this evening, he’s been at work filling the boxes with wood chips to be a base for the geraniums and etc. which we’d purchased earlier.

And the almost finished product:

They need a few more chips to raise the flowers, but that’s tomorrow’s job. Pretty, huh? Thanks, Mitch! And Larry!! Next year, Larry suggests an herb garden as well as flowers. Darn fine idea. Right?

Finale: Larry is out mowing the orchard, while I write this blog. Guess I got the long end of that stick . . . wait. Which end is the good end? The long one, right? Anyway, while he’ll be exhausted and will shower and fall into bed by 8 o’clock, I’ll just be a little weary. That’s what I get, weary. Not exhausted. And tomorrow is Sunday. The day of rest.

Sleep tight!

POLLEN COUNT

You can’t stay inside on a day like this! Highest pollen count in decades for Corvallis? Grass seed? Yes, but, my allergies?

I thought I’d left my hay fever behind when we moved from Minnesota and its ragweed. And then came the great wave of hazelnut (filbert, to some of you) planting in our valley. Corvallis, the Grass Seed capital of the world now has a second claim to allergy-generation fame.

But instead of sneezing and coughing, I get hives. Yes. Red, blotchy, itchy hives. I call my beloved Dr. Jen, and she suggests something called Zyrtec. Comes with all kinds of warnings, but hey. If it works? It doesn’t.

I see a product advertized. Allegra Hives. Yes! Specifically for hives. It doesn’t work. Not to feel too sorry for myself, but have you ever itched so fiercely that you can’t even try to sleep? All night? You can try Eucerin, but over your entire body? What would that do to the sheets?

I call Dr. Jen again and she recommends Xyzal. (A ridiculous name — how would you even pronounce it to the pharmacist when you call?) “24 HR ALLERGY” Take it, Dr. Jen says, with Pepcid AC. Today, I’m holding my breath because the hives, while still there, DON’T ITCH. I went outside in celebration, into the wind, the pollen be damned.

Okay, that behind us, let’s get on with the blog. Ryan, cow guy, has been busy. The west-most pasture had been planted in early spring to fescue, but to lie fallow this year. I like that word: fallow.

Then last week, came the thresher crawling over the field. I don’t have a photo of this stage, so use your imagination. Because next came the rake to gather the grass into windrows. Another word I like. Windrows. And this time, I have a photo:

And finally:

The bales will be stacked, then loaded onto a truck, and stored in one of Ryan’s barns. Next year, the plan is to plant sweet peas in this field, a legume meant to fix nitrogen, but which look and smell gorgeous as a bonus.

How are the bees doing? It’s a little hard to tell, but Allen came over to assist in settling the creatures into their new habitat. Here’s what that looked like:

We think they’re doing well. Apparently they have to be fed at first, before they set out to gather nectar and — pollen! For energy, the nectar, and for protein, the pollen. Who knew we’d have so much free protein for them?

Allen brought his family with him, and here are his two little girls making friends with the chickens:

It’s true that the chickens haven’t managed to enjoy the swing Larry made for them, but little girls know what to do with one:

We’re just back from a Nature Conservancy trip to visit Sycan Marsh, and learn about the fire management programs they’re implementing there. Their before and after photos are compelling, and the personnel are passionate and smart. The marsh is a mile-high meadow, and, speaking of words, I asked one of the staff the definition of another of my favorites, “fen.” What’s a fen?

Although both bogs and fens are similar types of wetlands as they are both considered peatlands, what sets them apart from each other is the source of their water supply. Fens typically are fed by a steady source of ground water whereas bogs are usually enclosed depressions filled by rain water.

Larry is standing at the sink, preparing to create one of his specialities for dinner, Szechuan Sweet and Sour spare ribs, when he says Hey! Look out the window!

Not sure why this photo came up super-sized, but it seems an appropriate ending to this afternoon’s blog. Wish you were coming for dinner — it’ll be delicious!

MAY

I should have taken a photo. Maybe I shouldn’t be left at home alone? What ev, here I am. Every morning for the past hundred years or so, I’ve made a smoothie for my breakfast. You know the recipe. Some frozen banana, frozen spinach, chocolate protein powder and etc. There’s always something in the refrig to be used up, half a cup of yogurt, some grapes, and in today’s case, a dismal chunk of tofu left over from a stir fry several days ago. Fine. Check. So why, dear God, did I fail to put a lid on it?

Standing there, stunned, it took a moment for me to realize what was happening, and when I did react and turn the damn thing off, I was saturated with, well, it. As was the floor, the cupboards, the oil painting on the kitchen wall, the ceiling, the machine itself.

And I had just taken my shower. Didn’t want to go that far back in the day, so I just peeled off my clothes, cleaned myself up in the sink, got re-dressed, and started in. Hands and knees and a scrub bucket. It took me an hour. I decided against getting the ladder up from the barn or the shed or the other shed and attempting to clean the ceiling. Larry will be home soon.

Started over. It was actually pretty good.

Meanwhile, I did just hear from Larry. Who is over at Black Butte for the famed BBI Invitational Golf Tournament. He says to ask if anyone is interested in a slightly used, left-handed, set of clubs? Apparently he has forgotten how to play, and instead of flinging the clubs into the lake, will try to recoup the loss. Bad day for the Viehls, looks like.

Chicken news: One of the Speckled has been repeatedly escaping the orchard to roam about the property, flinging bark dust from the flower beds, digging for worms or just having fun. She’s had her wings clipped, so theoretically can’t fly out. We’ve scoured the perimeter for her escape route, placed strategic chunks of firewood against the smallest possible exit, and yet. So the other day, Larry was driving past in the ATV when:

Apparently she can fly just fine. Or at least enough to flap up on the planter box and on up to the cross post. While the other two seem to be taking notes, neither of them have yet flown the coop. Hey. Maybe that’s the origin of that expression! Wow!

Now she’s supposed to be just a bird brain, so how did she figure this out? And how does she remember to do it again? Not so stupid after all. Except that she can’t get back into the orchard the way she gets out. For that, I have to go get some scratch in a cup and lead her back inside. Let me see. She gets out, and gets an extra treat to be herded back in. See? Not stupid.

If she insists on busting out, she and the other two will just have to spend their lives in the run. Where it’s narrow and there’s no shade and gravel to kick out onto the grass. It’s for their own health and safety. Inside the run, they’re protected from hawks, skunks, foxes, neighboring dogs.

Tomorrow Larry’s bees are set to arrive. Here’s where they’ll be living:

Of course when Larry gets decked out in his bee gear, I’ll be sure to send a photo. I can’t wait to see this myself! In order to take this photo, it was necessary for me to boot up, to crawl under the fence which is, unfortunately, hot wired for the cows. This was not an elegant site, as I am, as always, wearing a skirt. Which kept getting snagged on dead blackberry vines, unknown species of tall grass and flowers. Sigh. All for you.

I also was at work weed whacking the tall grass encircling the fruit trees where the mower can’t reach. Going just fine, until my machine ran out of line. I know that somewhere on these hundred acres will be a supply of fresh line. In a box, maybe? In the barn? The shed? Nope. Not going looking. Larry will be back soon. Ha.

Back inside, I’ve been experimenting with a recipe I discovered to brew non-alcoholic Kahlua, in order to recreate a coffee mocktail we found a few weeks ago. There are hundreds of recipes for coffee cocktails, not so many for the non-. But this seemed to be a good effort. Score: okay, but not what I’m looking for. Basically just brown sugar, vanilla, and coffee. I know. What’s wrong with that?

I’m heading over to the neighbors this evening for dinner. There will also be some friends from their time in Boise at the party. My family has been a part of Boise history, so I Googled my great uncle Ern. Here he is. Maybe you can make out the note that he was elected mayor twice. Nice toupee, don’t you think? See any resemblance?

I’m due at 6-ish, so better go do something about my hair.

QUARANTINE !

Yes, it finally caught up with us. Moments after the gov’t. announced that the Pandemic was Over, Larry set out to prove them wrong. How he accomplished this feat is unknown at this time, but sometime before Friday, May 5, he apparently touched, breathed, swallowed a sample of the virus, and here we are.

May 5, is, of course, Cinco de Mayo, as well as our anniversary. Don’t ask or try to figure out which, it’s practically triple digits. Obviously our celebratory dinner has been put on hold.

We settled him into one of the upstairs bedrooms and he proceeded to sleep for the next 72 hours. Okay, I’m making that up, but for a long time. Fortunately, he seems to have a light case, and when I came home with the Paxlovid on Sunday, he declined to take it. This on consideration of the warnings administered by the pharmacist to the wife. As he didn’t feel particularly sick, why choke down those huge horse pills . . .

I just took this photo minutes ago to assure you that you don’t need to feel too sorry for us. Cows grazing in the tall grass, evening sunshine, light clouds. Ah, May in Oregon.

So what did I do while we quarantined? I was going to title this post TO BEE or . . . before being shamed by one of my readers. Cute, but I guess not cute enough. This refers to the fact that Larry has decided to engage in bee keeping. More about which later, but for now, it meant that I climbed up on my high horse about the possibility of spraying the weeds in our driveway. We can’t spray if we have bees!

And what this has about my quarantine activities is that I decided to weed the driveway. Here’s what I’m talking about:

This is a before and after shot. Weeds in the top half, weeds pulled from the bottom half.

Yes, I weeded the whole thing. Four days of quarantine. Just took out my little garden stool, sat down, and started pulling. What else was I going to do?

Anyway, here we are on Day 5. This afternoon, we saddled up the SUV, donned our masks, and drove to Eugene. I wanted to talk to the people in the Hult Center box office about some tickets we have for next weekend, and I wanted to visit Nordstrom Rack about a white, short-sleeved T-shirt. This is about a hundred mile round trip, really inexcusable for the reasons I’ve cited, but we were about to go house mad, so we went.

BTW, I’ve been testing myself — negative again this morning, so fingers crossed.

Now, about the bees. Here’s their prospective home:

Looks a mess. Larry has immersed himself in bee know-how, read three or four books, consulted with the bee lady at Shonnards nursery and, more important, with Alan, the former bee master and builder of this hive. The bees and a queen have been ordered, to be delivered in about two weeks. I’m sure there will be more to tell, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here’s his latest toy:

I don’t know if the thing has a name, but it’s a wheeled, motor-driven, weed-whacker. This should be endlessly useful, and, once again, Larry has chosen to acquire a tool that is beyond my skill-level and physical capacity with which to help out. Damn. Kidding. Seriously?

And now it’s dinner time. I found a couple of chicken pot pies in the grab and go rack of our super market, discovered that they had no operating instructions what so ever. So they’re heating in the oven, and I’m hoping that’s adequate. Tomorrow I may start cooking again.

ME AGAIN?

I know. But I’ve been busy? So I’ll start with spring chores: Here’s Larry busily pruning the grapes on the arbor:

There. Now you’re all caught up. See the nice blue sky? Lovely life on a farm.

This morning we went for our newly scheduled “longer” walk. Our regular exercise routine, in which we worked out with our trainer, Nancy, twice a week, has been upended. First, when we discovered the luxury of an actual gym in the local golf-course buildings, exercise on the dirty floor of our garage lost all appeal. All those shiny machines, mats, balls, weights, pulleys, bars, and no one else there using them in the real gym? Seriously, just Larry and me and the morning sun on the beautiful green golf course out the windows? See photo. You’ll understand:

Okay, it’s true, sweet Nancy is not there on Zoom to remind us to keep our knees bent, or whatever, and we do miss her. There’s just not sufficient wi-fi coverage in this beautiful new gym to make Zoom work on the computer, and the tiny screen of a cell phone didn’t make the cut, either.

But if we’re to be on our own, we have to absolutely have a schedule and one of us has to enforce it. That meant the walk is Tuesday morning. By “longer” I mean down to the first bridge and back. We can’t see Muddy Creek from there, but there’s an eagle’s nest in one of the straggly oak trees in a copse just off the road. Often enough, as we pass by, we can see the white heads of the adult pair, and hope soon enough to spot the babies.

This walk nets about 3,000 steps for me, fewer for Larry, obviously, and offers us an excellent opportunity to discuss if Pete Buttegieg should have gone to Ohio earlier, even if on paternity leave. Paternity leave?

And what could have been done to avert the banking crisis, given the warning signs. Passing motorists move to the middle of the road and wave, so that’s nice, but we haven’t determined the answers to the above. Sorry.

On the way back up our driveway, we stop at a the sound of rushing water in the first creek. There hasn’t been water in that creek for three or four years, so it was a welcome surprise. Especially as we’d just experienced our own water crisis. Yep. The well ran dry last Monday. This is an absolutely existential fear of mine. Without well water, no farm. Period. So, it’s been my job to monitor the water level in the cistern and adjust use accordingly. On my defense, this rainy year? But, when we checked, no water to be seen.

Here’s how the water system in the house works: You wouldn’t want to drink water from our well just out of the ground, so we have this reverse osmosis machinery in the shed which delivers clean water to the house, and leaves the outside water as is. The plants don’t care and neither, apparently do the chickens: (Yes, the black thing is a Traeger, has nothing to do with water at all.)

So the first thing we do is call “No Drought” in Lebanon (about 20 miles down the road). They could bring us 1,000 gallons of clean water to fill our reservoir, for $400. Obviously, that’s not sustainable, so the second phone call goes to Oregon Pump. Jake, our Water Guy, could be here in the afternoon to discover what was going on.

The well and the pump served the original house down by the barn, which we’d torn down to build here up on the hill. We were assured that it was a viable, dependable well, been operating without fail, apparently for dozens of years. Not to keep you in suspense, it was the pump, Jake found, which failed, not the aquifer. A pump can be replaced, which it was the following week. It turns out a family of two can live on 1000 gallons of potable water for a week. You might find that useful to know. But you do have to limit the number and duration of showers, and hand-wash the dishes. The laundry has to wait.

Because I haven’t written for a long time you might be wondering what, if anything of importance, we’ve been doing. Besides pruning the grapes. So Larry has been busy outside building next year’s garden. First these cute boxes, created with help from Mitch:

These are made from cedar planks, will obviate the necessity of crawling about on hands and knees to harvest the coming bounty. Next, the dirt necessary to fill them:

Larry has filled the boxes first with mulch gathered out by the little shed. Including, of course, the detritus from a year’s worth of cleaning the chicken coop. That’s got to be good stuff. So when this lovely compost from the Tack Shack gets layered on top, should be some darned fine tomatoes. Right?

My turn. What have I been doing? Remember all those onions we gathered last year? We haven’t perfected an onion storage practice, but I was able to sort out still okay candidates from a burlap bag hanging in the garage. I learned you can freeze onions easily, but decided they needed to be chopped up first.

Got them in small plastic bags after they were frozen, and now have a great supply, if the creek don’t rise . . . I’m referring to the freezer failure of earlier in the year which lots of our fruits and veg from 2021 were thawed, and thus destroyed.

We’ve been watching a hilarious show called Clarkson’s Farm, in which farming disasters are filmed. No, it is funny, and painfully familiar.

It’s not a farming disaster, but our ATV had to go in to the shop today. This means a trip to the rental shop in Philomath for a trailer, then back to load up the ATV and on to Albany for repairs. The kind of annoying chore that can eat up a day. But, Larry decided he needed more potatoes to plant, and after dropping off the rig, went on to Shonnard’s Garden Shop. What would have been a good episode for Clarkson’s was filming Larry parking the truck with trailer attached in the busy lot of the garden store. Or rather, trying to back out of the parking space with trailer attached.

However, our lives aren’t only about the farm. After the condo sold, we’ve been road-testing various hotels in Portland. Last Thursday, I had a massage at noon (I know, I’m totally spoiled with a once-a-month visit), went to a movie with my Chicks friends in the afternoon, and then hung out in our newest hotel candidate, the Paramount while Larry went to a meeting. It’s been the nicest so far, but I have to report that the burgers we had for dinner in their restaurant weren’t that good, and the bar where we went for dessert after Larry got back, was loud and not that comfy. So. Here we are.

Our new place at Terwilliger, the Old Folks Home, won’t be ready for occupancy until next January, so we still have more hotel visits to enjoy while in Portland. Or not.

We’ve cancelled our planned trip to Boston to see Charlie direct the latest B.C. musical, after learning that we wouldn’t have that much opportunity to actually spend time with him. We do love him and are sure he will have an amazing career. I promise we will attend his first opening on Boadway, or off-Broadway, but the problem is, Boston/New York just doesn’t get any closer to Corvallis. At out ages, we have the crotechety attitude that maybe our beautiful grandkids should travel to see us. I don’t know. Some old people like to travel. Or so I’m told.

Music? We’re both in our separate banjo/guitar worlds, trying to sort it out sufficiently to enjoy participating in a bluegrass jam we discovered that meets every second Wednesday. So far our participation has been just frozen terror that we may get called upon, and pure fun being part of the music. Today, for Larry, it’s Cherokee Shuffle, and mine, Don’t That Road Look Rough and Rocky. The trick is to memorize the music and be able to play with/in front of others. You can look up those songs up on YouTube and see what we’re up against.

That said, the sun has set, dinner dishes done, and it’s time to practice! See you next time!

NUMBER SEVENTY-ONE

I just counted. The first post I wrote was in July of 2014. I’d meant this blog to act as a record of our project here on the farm. Like a diary, or journal, if I had ever been disposed to write a diary, or journal. Which I hadn’t. Simply not that much of interest happened often enough to be worth dedicating a notebook to such an undertaking.

Then when I started this, I discovered that I was doing it more to entertain an imaginary audience, and looked for funny, silly things to record. Of course, I do like to write, and this was an opportunity to exercise my imagination. Except for the photos, which haven’t been photo-shopped (no idea how to photo-shop something anyway), there’s always been an imaginative overlay to the reporting. In other words, don’t exactly trust me. Got it?

Here I am again after a two-month layover. Mid February already. So, what’s been going on? Lots of what I’d imagine real farmers would consider winter work. Pruning the orchard. Building raised beds for the garden. Deadheading all the landscape stuff.

And in our case, trying to accommodate artifacts from the condo in storage or down here in Corvallis. Errors were made by the moving company, and we found some large artwork that was meant to be in storage unloaded into our shed. Right.

I had observed out loud one day that, for Larry, a job to be done announces itself as something he, himself, must do. A wonderful quality, but here in our dotage, not always practical. Case in point, what to do with several large paintings that had erroneously arrived here, all wrapped in camouflage cardboard and thick paper. Me: “We can’t hang those here ourselves. It would take scaffolding, several muscular assistants, certain skills we don’t have. We’ll have to hire someone.”

Hahaha. We got an estimate. $2,000 for the job, plus mileage from Portland. Okay, stop. Think. No, we can’t hang the Lee Kelly oil, but everything else?

We can do this. Here’s how that looked:

I need to tell you that the mirror came in pieces, so the thing had to be reassembled, which involved tiny pieces and tiny screws and lots of colorful language. But it looks lovely here and we can find better uses for two thousand dollars. Right?

Another major project we’ve initiated is the discovery of the right place to stay overnight when in Portland. Which it seems we certainly are and will be going forward. So. A hotel. Which? We’ve tried four, now, and find each not quite right. First, a modern, simple, bare minimum room at the Convoy. Next, Larry stayed at the Fairmount to attend a meeting, and he did approve of that one, but it’s not in the right neighborhood.

How about the Marriott down at Waterfront? Right spot. We could ride the streetcar from there to everywhere (thanks now, to Vik, who secured Hop cards for us and is instructing us in the usage of the system). But the hotel? Nope. Made for giant people, and when I can’t sit to read a book on the chair or sofa without my legs extending straight out like a six-year old, nope. The bathroom door wouldn’t close, the entry door wouldn’t open. Yeah, nope.

On to last weekend. First, we had to go north for dentist appointments which, on arrival, we learned, were correctly scheduled for some time in April. WTF? We both had the Feb. date on our calendars, but, again, mistakes were made. Okay, on to our next hotel, the Hampton Inn right in the Pearl District. It’s nice, it’s fine. But we are learning that a hotel room with but one chair is just not comfortable when we have hours to spend there. Even when I can sit in said chair like a normal person.

So, we’re 0 for 4. And, btw, when the TV in the hotel offers Netflix, but you must sign in with your own personal account, and you have not brought your user name and password for Netflix with you, you’re screwed. Why doesn’t the hotel just provide the damn thing? Oh well.

Now, to change the atmosphere, here’s a photo I took last week on my early morning walk down the road:

Magic. Or at least I think so. Oh, and this was on the way back up the road. Just so you’ll know.

I haven’t told you about the bluegrass jam we’ve found down at the Philomath Grange. Every second Wednesday, from 7 until it’s over. Larry and I have been taking lessons from a guy in Corvallis, guitar for Larry, banjo for me, and this is an opportunity to participate in the music with other folks.

It’s a mixed bag for sure. The first time, we didn’t take our instruments, just sat in the back of the circle and listened. Fun! Feeling braver, we did take the instruments next time, and joined in at the “beginners circle.” Again, this was fun, though terrifying. The thing is, you have to play totally by ear. No music stands. Someone calls a tune and you just try to plunk along with. All fine. It’s definitely best when the person calling the tune chooses something recognizable as bluegrass, not, like, some Rihanna tune from, what, Barbados, by which I mean no disrespect, but where are the chord changes? Yes, that does happen. Anyway.

In preparation, Larry and I have acquired books entitled Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus, Guitar for same. Surprisingly, they seem pretty helpful. When’s the next Second Wednesday? Just looked. March 8. Not that much time.

We’ve been trying to arrange a trip to California to see Peter and Allison’s place in Palm Desert, but all the arrows are pointing down. First, I’m having a little eye problem, perhaps detached retina, which means I’m not to fly just now. So, we can drive? Except we’ve just heard that it will be raining all week on the days we meant to be there. Okay, we give up. We’ll go to sunny California when it’s, you know, sunny?

And, speaking of Netflix, we’ve been struggling here at the farm as well. First, my new computer, which doesn’t speak English as I understand it, and the family TV, which plays well enough although the sound comes and goes. We called on a geek, advertising in the local co-op, who came and was brilliant in taming my computer, but had no luck with the TV. We are therefore, going to Eugene this afternoon in search of not only a replacement TV, but a person to come and install the thing. Too much to ask for? I’ll let you know next time.

TOWARD THE SIMPLE LIFE

The end. The door closes. We begin our new, simpler life in the little house in the country.

Having survived the great Amazon Scam which infiltrated Larry’s computer, the Debit Card Scam wherein someone gained access to the Farm’s debit card and bought fifty-nine dollars of make-up. (The bank declined two other attempts at the card but somehow let this one through. The make-up purchase is under investigation. A debit card, bank-people. Don’t you have to know the code to use it?)

Okay, the “Simple Life” continues tomorrow, when we get up and drive to Portland for a performance at Center Stage with the White-Davises. Spend two nights in a hotel in town so that I/we don’t have to drive there again for the Tuesday evening Book Tea.

We won’t know what to do in Portland during those two days when we don’t have the condo, I worry. No, Larry says, we can go to a MAC store and get his computer straightened out. We can get that replacement glass chimney for the lamp in the bedroom. You can go to the fabric outlet. We’ll get the Bose speaker fixed.

You can learn how to have fun in Portland, Vik says. We’ll take you to a movie. But . . .

Simple?

We spent Thanksgiving in Seattle with the Ederers and the Peter Viehls. Eleven of us, enjoying Jenny’s new house, Tom’s spatch-cocked turkey, all five grandkids being cute and beautiful and funny. It is confirmed that stuffing requires Jimmy Dean sausage in the formula, and that pumpkin pie and mincemeat pie are well augmented by pecan pie.

Just now it’s December 3. Larry is coming in from moving potted plants into the greenhouse. Pulling up the spent flowers in the garden. Ricardo and his crew have been mowing the lawn, raking leaves, dead-heading plants to complete the job started two days ago, before the snow got too heavy.

Here’s the antique clock we hauled down here (I mean, the movers hauled it) because we didn’t know what else to do with it. It looks pretty weird in the corner of the living room — and it doesn’t work. So? In our bedroom? Well? First, of course, we won’t make it stand on the coasters, which look like little slippers or something. We’ll have it fixed, and then decide if we can sleep through the ticking and the on-the-hour gongs.

Just for fun this afternoon, Larry put together a swing for the chickens. This was inspired by a note from Kathy Abraham with a link to instructions. Chickens get bored, too, as you may not be aware, and ours definitely need some diversion. I do understand the concept of pecking order, and Grace takes it quite seriously. They’re all molting now, not laying eggs, so a little recreation seems appropriate. Larry does roll his eyes, but how cute is this?

I’ll thread some beads on the rope, if I can find some large enough. And if I ever see a chicken swinging on it, I’ll grab a photo and post it. Thanks, Kathy!

This afternoon the truck from the moving company drove up with the two reading lamps which had failed to appear with all the other boxes and packages. We were sure we hadn’t left them in the condo, but then we were also sure we hadn’t left my green dress and fleece jacket there either. (Fortunately out agent, the fabulous Susan Suzuki, had retrieved them and we could collect my wayward clothes from her office on the way to Seattle.) The lamps weren’t so easily recovered, as it seems they’d been hidden behind some packaging and had travelled to Palm Springs and back in the movers’ truck before being discovered.

This evening we met Allen down by the gate. He’s made a box for package delivery on the outside of the gate to replace the plastic bin currently serving duty. The box was created with wood from one of the many fallen oaks on the property. He’ll mount it tomorrow afternoon, and when I get back from you-know-where I’ll take a photo and send it next time.

Allen offered to help Larry fix the actual gate sections to new, heavy, steel posts, which should work to correct the problems illustrated in my last post. Allen is maintenance of the best kind — you’ve met him and his massive machinery in earlier posts, and you remember that he’s the bee guy, too?

Larry and I have succumbed to another round of Great British Baking show, but tonight we have a fire, candles, the two new lamps and two good books to entertain us. We can catch the GBBS while we’re tucked into the hotel tomorrow evening. Pretty sure they won’t have an oak fire blazing in the fireplace to tempt us otherwise.

COUNTRY LIFE

Oh My God! Look!

He’s standing at the front window, and I look out. I see the camellia loaded with buds, I see the grass newly growing on the driveway, I see — Oh My God. The Heritage Tree.

See the stump, at the base? Where we had a tree service take down the original main trunk of this beautiful Oregon White Oak, as, apparently suffering from rot, it threatened the site of our new little house-to-be. We used the massive chunks of wood to create an artistic installation in front of the copse, called “Oakhenge,” hahaha. And now the remaining half of the tree is on the ground.

We’ve become resigned to seeing the oaks fall, but not the giants. Not the iconic hundreds-of-year-old giants with names of their own, who were here in the time of the Kalapuyas. Memento Mori? For sure.

We practically have Mitch on speed dial, and have called to see if he’s available on Sunday to bring his chain saw. (The rural way to “call Maintenance?)

Speaking of Mitch, here are he and Larry dispatching a cherry tree in the orchard. This tree succumbed to some sort of tree virus and had to go, but we’ve learned that growing cherries is just a complicated way to feed the local flocks of birds. We’ll replace this tree with some other, more defensible fruit next spring when the bare roots are available. A bad week, apparently, for trees.

If you live in the country, you’re going to need a pick-up. The older and more beat up, the better, at least for cred down at the hardware store. Thus, we have our Bob. Bob-the-Truck, who featured in an adventure the previous weekend. Delivering this pile of split wood (from yes, another downed oak.) to our place at Black Butte.

All going well until the return trip when, after a quick lunch in Monroe, the battery died. Triple A, a couple of hours sitting in the cab, and we made it home.

Fine, until this Monday when Larry had a breakfast with the boys in Wilsonville, where he was to collect a used walk-behind weed whacker from friend Tommy. Breakfast got cancelled, Larry didn’t get the message, called me from the freeway about half way home. Bob-the-truck once again non-functioning.

This time he got towed, got a ride with the driver, deposited our Bob at the local Chevrolet dealer and came home with the determination to find another beater truck which actually ran on demand.

Okay, but what’s been going on in the country kitchen? Mostly freezing the production from the garden. Like all the apples, tomato sauce, tomatillo sauce. That one for the first time, and it’s really good. Not sure how to use it, I mean, sure, enchiladas, tacos maybe, but I’ll have to do some research. I haven’t yet found a good way to use up all those 30 pound Napa cabbages, but we’re whittling away at them in the raw. We’ll see how long they can last in a refrigerator.

There must be a thousand cooking blogs out there, and I like to read them, but I’ve not yet found a recipe for left-over French fries. So I’m a genius maybe, because I sauteed some onion, tossed in the fries from yesterday’s pub lunch, chopped some left-over grilled pork tenderloin in the processor, added some chicken broth and let them all simmer for awhile. The stuff is delicious. I’ll spoon a dollop of sour cream on top and whistle Yankee Doodle for dinner. I amaze myself.

We’ve been enduring a plague of flies, generated, it seems, from the application of chicken manure on the pasture across the road. When we bought this property, we had to sign a document from the county to the effect that this IS the country. There will be farm activity, noise, smells, associated with the practice of agriculture about which we cannot expect redress. The smell of the manure was bad enough, but each day, lately, we watch flies bat against the windows, never really knowing how they all even get inside. Where they eventually die, even if we don’t swat them. Larry is particularly besieged by one species of tiny fly which is fatally attracted to his hair. Don’t laugh! (okay, I kind-of do.)

Then came the lady bugs. By the millions, I swear. Migrating? Dunno. But they’re called lady bugs because Europeans once prayed to the Virgin Mary to protect their crops. The lady bug swarms arrived and ate the insects threatening the farmers’ crops. A miracle from Our Lady. So we must appreciate them, even though they lie dead on the porches each morning, after failing to gain admittance to the house. The flies get in, why can’t they?

But now the really big deal. This blog is really meant as a log of our move-to-the-country while old, so I have to include for future reference the news about the still-potential sale of the Portland condo. Eight more days til closing, and so far, it’s looking almost on. We learned today that all contingencies had been removed — which means if they walk away, they leave the earnest money behind. Yeah, this is huge alright. I don’t need to include details, except to say that there are a lot of details to clear out of drawers, off of shelves, under sinks before the day of their occupancy, Nov. 18. I don’t have photos to share, not yet, but you can imagine. Right?

This evening, Larry and I are going to an actual movie! I know, seriously? It’s a documentary at the Darkside Cinema, called Elemental. But that being so, I need to make a salad (Napa Cabbage of course) and get that soup stuff on the table.

Next time we are together, perhaps our condo will be but a memory. I will let you know.

CHAPTER TWO

In which Tracy comes by to clip some wings. Tracy is the former owner of our two new chickens — an engineer at HP who also raises Islandic sheep, and manages her flock of some 30 chickens, all of whom are apparently sufficiently well-trained to free-range about the property and put themselves to bed in their coop every evening. Says she knows how to clip feathers, and agreed to show me how.

She uses a pair of ordinary kitchen scissors, and here’s the technique: you sit down among the birds who have come to you for a treat, grasp a chicken by the leg and soothe it in your lap. Spread out the wing and find the end feathers, clipping them above the shaft, which is still live. You will probably never need to know this. But the intricate beauty of a simple chicken feather is enough to stop your busy life for a moment of wonder.

As we didn’t know which chicken required this intervention, both the new girls were so treated. Tracy says they don’t care. Grace, who has never attempted flight, to our knowledge, escaped Tracy’s attention.

We opened the door to the run, and the chickens quickly dispersed about the orchard. Tracy and I fell into conversation in the shade of one of the apple trees, and were pretty surprised when we saw Miss Clipped Wings strutting by OUTSIDE the fence.

Right. WTF? We brought her back inside and watched her escape again. See the wire stretched across the gate in the photo below? Easy peasy. The simple addition of, yes, chicken wire across the base of the gate seems to have, these three days later, done the job.

Simple, Larry asks?

The drama of life without an oven has come to an end with the installation of our new model this morning. It was only a month, but some of the inventions we attempted were pretty pitiful. Cook one of the frozen left-over casseroles in the microwave? An explosion of cheese sauce all over the oven and noodles of baked cardboard. Yes, I know you’re supposed to cover something you cook in the microwave. How could I have forgotten?

Bake a loaf of bread on the barbecue? Fine, if you like a blackened crust and underdone interior. It tastes okay, once you saw off the charcoal.

We were fortunate enough to score an invitation to dinner from our neighbors, Marjorie and Ted. Amy and Mike, Marjorie’s sister and husband, had come to the valley, and would take home a load of firewood from our endless stash. In return for a dinner Mike would cook, of the game he’d harvested. Goose and pheasant, sauteed in butter, with some special seasonings of his devising. Both these people are wild-life biologists, and we heard, among other things, how it is possible to identify a wolf-kill of, for example, a rancher’s cow. Or find a spotted owl’s nest. Pretty cool stuff.

I thought I remembered picking shot out of a pheasant I roasted once that Larry had shot, back in Minnesota days. He says it never happened. He certainly has not shot anything since. So much for life off the grid.

Life with a simple country garden? Larry’s little acre has been blessing us all summer . . . with, among other successes, at least four 30-pound Napa cabbages. That’s a lot of cabbage to work into the meal plans. I wonder if it will be easier now that I have an oven?

And speaking of life in the country, we were awakened last night, midnight or so, by a furious scratching in the wall behind our bed. Somebody preparing winter quarters, apparently. We checked with our builder this morning to learn exactly what type of insulation had been used, and he said not to worry, nothing could penetrate. Yeah, well. You trap or poison the thing, it dies, and you live with the smell unto eternity? We did a perimeter search this morning and found nothing except an overgrown jasmine plant, which we will trim later, honestly. I know what you’re thinking. It’s one of the chickens, right?