MOSTLY LARRY

So he’s been in a funk most of February. The weather? Too cold to do anything outside, too cold for golf. His knee? Doesn’t work properly after the replacement replacement. Doc says there’s just a lot of scar tissue. Well, whose fault is that? Taxes? Yes. Larry’s really brilliant in a lot of ways, but bookkeeping isn’t one of them. His computer loses things, or whatever he needs is in Portland, or he never got it anyway.

Right. But now it’s March. It’s still cold, but the sun is shining. A guy can always bake bread!

It’s just as good as it looks. Side bar: Grammar note. I believe I’m supposed to say “it’s just so good as it looks.” But I’m a newly-arrived fan of John McWhorter, linguist at the NYT, and love the way he writes about language. (Well, about everything.) Remember when I was being proud of myself for using a semicolon? He quoted someone — I forget whom — saying people just use semicolons to demonstrate that they went to college. I suspect he might say the same thing about the usage above.

Okay, back to Larry. Don Quixote battling the voles, moles, deer, and, I have to admit, sometimes the chickens, threatening his serenity in our wild enclave. We have an orchard (he has an orchard?) as well as a vegetable garden. Both now fenced against the deer. No one can do anything about the voles and moles, but the chickens?

In the beginning, we both worked to surround the fruit trees with first, a newspaper mulch. Idea gleaned from the Huntington Garden in Pasadena, courtesy of Margie Lindbeck. This didn’t work here in rainy Corvallis, and we moved on to chicken wire under each tree. Lots of work! Staples, shears, sharp points? This because, by then, we had actual chickens, who love nothing more than to dig in the exposed dirt under each tree. Thereby exposing the tree’s roots.

Of course, weeds would grow through the wire, so we added a layer of chips (gleaned from the fallen oak trees on the property) atop the wire. Looked nice. For a year or two. But the chickens kicked the chips off the wire into the surrounding grass, making mowing difficult. The weeds grew through the wire and chips anyway.

Next, we had Mitch and Chance build a run along the orchard’s west border, covered with wire to keep the hawks out, and felt the the birds had adequate, safe, territory and didn’t need to be in the orchard at all. Then we had a fiery summer, and Rhody, Maddie, and Grace had no shade under which to shelter from the heat. In the main orchard we found them huddled behind two large planting boxes, the dirt and moisture from the watering system providing them shade and refrigeration. We tried putting the patio umbrella up in their run to shade them. Hahaha. No, they had to be allowed into the orchard. Where they resumed kicking and digging under the trees.

Now our story is up to today, and Larry’s search for a meaningful project. What if we dug up the wire and used landscape fabric, topped with landscape size rock as handsome, sturdy, chicken-proof mulch under the trees? Good idea! Here’s what that looks like:

And finally:

We haven’t yet turned the chickens loose to see what kind of damage they may be able to do. So what’s the point of all this work, anyway? You see the smile on Larry’s face? Sure, he could be lifting weights in a gym someplace but I think this has been more fun. You can ask him.

What have I been doing all this time? Besides cooking, laundry and so on you mean? Good question. With all that left-over yarn from Alli’s sweater, I thought I would just knit myself something. Didn’t have a pattern, but I could piggy-back on what I learned from Alli’s. Um. What I have, after many hours of work (okay, I listened to books from Libby and Audible) — what I have is a great overgrown, lumpish potato sack. Warm, yes. But the sleeves are too narrow and besides, it’s kind of all-over ugly. I canvassed my sisters, and they were thoughtful, supportive. If I love knitting, I should tear it up and make it right. I said I tell them what I decide next Sunday at our regularly scheduled phone visit.

Got the sweater out of the Good Will bag and thought about unpicking all those end pieces I’d sewn into the body with a darning needle. Nope. I just couldn’t. I’ve now put the thing back into the Good Will, and turned it in. It’s OVER.

Next? I hand-picked all the fallen blossoms from the camellia by the front door, and the daffodils are blooming. We both feel better!

The sky is beautiful right now, dinner is smelling pretty good, Larry is chilling with a beer, laughing at something on his email feed. I can’t discuss world affairs on this blog, but I will say I’m mindful of our good fortune. See you next time!

Oh, February

That dreary tag-end of winter while we wait for the light to come back? It hasn’t been so bad, all foggy mornings and moon-lit nights. Fires in the fireplace and books to read. Then this:

Ryan showed up with his shiny new tractor hauling what he informed me is a field cultivator. Time to work on the west pasture, been lying fallow all year. But first he had to thread the needle through gates below the barn.

Love the way Ryan solves problems! An old board and a stump from the burn pile, and there’s a ramp. Do you wish you had a farm? This cultivator opens like a book, and soon there were wide swaths of brown earth where green weeds had been. Nice.

Next on the calendar was Martha’s arrival Saturday mid-day, in Corvallis to take her sister (me) to the ballet in Eugene Sunday afternoon. Apparently the word “ballet” can refer to individual works of varying length. In this case, we saw five individual pieces, all choreographed by women. Traditionally, we were told in the program, men wrote the steps, women simply performed them. The way of the world. The best dance of this new order was the story of ghosts, come to frequent the stage after a performance when the audience has gone home. Those gorgeous bodies. Sigh.

The next week, my neighbor-across-the-field, Marjorie, invited me to join her on a trip to Inavale, a riding academy. She was “auditioning” her dogs for a place in the kennel there, which one does when we’re talking about a kennel in an academy. No worries, her two dogs are beautifully trained, and were accepted for a spot when called for.

Here’s one of the boarders in the academy. Seriously:

But honestly, we’re talking about a completely new world here. Thoroughbreds, and silk jackets, and beautiful boots. You know, a fox and hounds? Right here in Corvallis? There will be a show later in the spring, and I can’t wait to go. That afternoon, we were lucky to watch a rider schooling a young Icelandic pony (?) in a training circle. Just sitting in the sunshine while I learned about such things as “shoulder in” and “hard stop.”:

But back to the farm. Larry has been engaged in a battle of wits with the local herd of deer, members of which have determined his garden is a good lunch spot. They can jump over anything we’ve posited so far, and just laugh as they hear us talk about getting a dog. They know Larry, they know that’s an empty threat. But spring is in the air, the seed catalogs have arrived. What to do?

I think this is called hog wire, which Mitch and Chance spent all day yesterday attaching to the existing rail fence. See the tall post in the corner? That will brace posts of equal height attached to the current posts, and strung along that higher level with wire strands. Think this will work?

In the background, you can see the field I mentioned earlier. And those straggly plants in the foreground are baby leeks. Yum.

Larry has descended from his atelier where he was watching golf and reading the Economist, asks if I’m ready to go. We’re looking for a dimension of mirror which I can hang on the bedroom door, to enable some attempt at fashionable hair drying in which I can see the back of my head. “Atelier?” It’s because I was writing about that riding academy. Was also reading “The Other Bennett Girl,” in the style of Jane Austin. Must make a course correction! Yikes!

Until next time . . .

LIFE STORY

Acorns once fell to the earth, put down roots and then, three to four hundred years later, crashed as giant oaks back to the earth. Wind, rain, ice, old age? Here’s the most recent windfall, came down last weekend. You can see that it’s been dead a while, and that the acorn woodpeckers have turned it into a granary tree. Each of the holes stuffed with acorns.

And that’s one way the story ends. Across our fence, you will note, and onto the neighbor’s property. A big clutter, and we are grateful to Mitch and Chance who like to earn auxiliary cash on some weekends by sawing, bucking, stacking.

But last year, the trees which fell were more statuesque, with long, straight trunks which Allen wanted to salvage. Remember Allen? He’s going to build a mill in his back yard and plane the trees into planks which he will use to floor his living room. Allen is also the one who built the stone work on our patio, who raises bees under the oaks in our Fish and Wildlife acres.

He had stashed 10 trunks from last year’s windfalls by the barn, to season for a year, or maybe to wait until he built his mill. He came by this weekend to collect the wood. A little photo essay:

Does he just rent that equipment, I ask Larry this evening while I’m typing this. “No, he owns it.” I guess someone who is building his own mill will have the necessary. That’s Larry on the John Deere, btw, his John Deere. Always fun to put it to such manly work, right?

The story of these trees isn’t ending in ignominy across a scrappy fence.

Mitch and Chance have indicated that they’d like to try to sell the firewood they’ve cut these past two years. They’ll have to rent a splitter, find the customers, haul it away. Why not? You’ve seen that we have already a century of firewood split and stacked in our barn,

Another ending to the story:

This is tonight’s fire, in front of which, Larry sits reading. Dark Star, by Alan Furst.

But I expect you’d like an update on our Gracie? Who lost her feathers? She has been reunited with her flock, and her feathers are growing back. This photo won’t make it clear, but we are optimistic that she’ll fully recover:

A little family news: Charlie has arrived in Vienna for his semester abroad. His sister Amy thinks Grandpa Larry should hire a private plane and fly us all to Austria to visit him this spring. Grandpa Larry has shown no enthusiasm for this plan, but I have to admit I like the sound of it. Just kidding, Larry!

Charlie has a story. He went to a cafe and, trying out his brand new German, asked if he could get a coke and fries. “Is that what you really want?” asked the waitress, presumably in English, “or is that just all you know how to order?” Busted.

So life has resumed, despite Omicron, despite the weather? We had tickets to the Oregon Symphony’s concert in Salem Friday night, and there, huddled in the seats of the Willamette U’s concert hall, masked up, of course, heard Scheherazade. Gorgeous. I wish you had been there, too.

After a week of cold, blue-sky weather, the rains have returned. I’m going to find my book and join Larry by the fire. Reading Ann Cleves’ Blue Lightening. Just a cozy little mystery story sited on Fair Isle, Scotland. Perfect for a rainy Sunday evening.

Gracie, and etc.

It’s my fault. Of course it is. Because my newly-straightened toe wouldn’t fit into any boot (except the orthopedic one), I haven’t been out to see my chickens in several weeks. Don’t worry, Larry has been cleaning the coop, gathering the eggs, but he doesn’t actually interact with the birds. So a day ago I set out to have a little chat, tell them they might want to get back to the business of laying eggs, now that the molt is over, and found poor Gracie, practically plucked clean:

When she flaps her wings, you can see that the rest of her body looks just as naked as the back of her neck.

A quick trip to Google told me that chickens may be plucking their own feathers in response to mites, boredom, whatever, or another chicken may be bullying her. Well, I don’t believe any chicken could be plucking the back of her own neck, see above, so have to assume one of the other girls is doing the damage. Don’t know who started the fight, but it’s clear we need to separate them.

Larry and I got to work yesterday in a lull in the rain. We have these built-in planters in the orchard, and one of them would be the correct size for a little quarantine time. An over-sized pot turned sideways, some bedding material, the outdoor watering can, and she would be good for some days.

Yeah. Try catching her. I explained that we were helping her, but she chose not believe me and escaped into the orchard. Modestly said, I do believe this would have been a good little video for YouTube. Over the fence, into the weeds, a box of treats in my one hand, a larger box for capture in the other, and around we went. She eventually made a break for the coop, the door standing open, and I was able to trap her heading up the ladder to the nest.

But she couldn’t live outside in the rain. A tarp would be good:

You can see the enthusiasm on Larry’s face.

Out of the rain, probably not warm enough without a full complement of feathers, but secure, we thought. Looks ugly as hell, but, oh well. Temporary, right?

We made a quick trip to Wilco for some further accessories, like a suspendible feeder, some bungee cords to hold the tarp in place; a trip to the barn provided hands-full of straw for the floor of the new “coop.”

Today I went out to check on her, and found her perfectly immobile.
“I think she’s dead,” I told Larry. Yes, her eyes were open, maybe it’s just a coma. Happy to say, I just came back in from another look, provided with some dried worm candy, and she came to life, pecked at the treats. Hope she makes it.

Meanwhile. What else is going on? Today is planting day. Integrative Resource Mgmt. is planting 500 new trees in the fenced stream beds across the property. One hundred willow, and assorted aspen, choke cherry, oak and ash. Probably just twigs, but it’s fun to imagine their future.

And, backing up, we spent a couple of days at Black Butte, one night in the company of the California Viehl boys, up north for some skiing:

For those of you who haven’t seen them in a while, that’s Andrew on the left, Charlie on the right. Among the trivia we’ve learned is the sad fact that pizza restaurants are closed on Mondays. Not just in Sisters, apparently world wide. Who doesn’t know that? We made do.

Peter brought me some Meyer lemons from their tree back home. Gorgeous, and I am, just at this minute, engaged in making some marmalade. Waiting for the dishwasher to finish sterilizing the jars. Meyer lemon marmalade is essentially just sugar dolled up to look like jelly, so, therefore, I expect it to be delicious.

In closing I’d like to point out that, for the first time since writing the blog, I’ve utilized a semi-colon. So proud. Hope I used it correctly!😙 H

2022

I walked the road for the first time in my hammer-toe boot this afternoon. Cold, fresh air, sun on the green grass of the pastures, the holy oak trees wondering at the fuss. What does 2022 mean to them? Who tried to catch time and imprison it on a calendar?

But December has been a curious month, what with Christmas in Seattle (great), the snow (beautiful, after we got safely home), and the realization that Larry and I no longer have any urban mojo, whatsoever. It may have been, in my case, the incident with me, the drug dealer, and my parking space in the condo garage.

So 5 or 6 years back, we had an electric outlet installed next to my parking space in order that I could keep a charge in my little hybrid car’s battery. A month ago, our realtor noticed a car parked in my space, using the electricity to charge his beautiful Tesla. She left a note, he texted me an apology. The end. Until we arrived in Portland the following week to find the car, still in my space, still using the electricity, for which we are billed.

I sent him a quick, friendly text. “Hey, you can use the outlet, no worries, but use an extension cord, don’t park in my space.”

“Oh, sorry, I’m out of town, but will have my partner move the car. 100%.”

Next week, still in my space. “Hey, thought we had an understanding. You can use the electricity but NOT my space. Going to be really pissed if I have to park on the street because you’re camped out on my property. Who are you, anyway?”

“Sorry, I’m out of town. Won’t happen again. My car was broken into and I have to take it to the shop.”

Not sure why that’s relevant, but okay. Windows were smashed in the car. A Tesla, remember. “Sorry about your car. Bummer. Listen, maybe we can arrange to have the outlet moved so you can charge it in your own space.”

Now we’re up to last week. Larry and I drive up to Portland on Sunday and there’s the Tesla, in Larry’s space! And in my, adjoining, space, another, apparently unrelated car. Oddly, Tesla-guy is right there as we drive up. WTF? I’ll just move the Tesla, he says, gets in, and drives around the garage.

I write a note to the stranger’s car. “Don’t park here! You know this is private property. If I find you here again, I’ll have you towed.” See, I’m getting urban here, no longer Ms. Friendly, oh-go-ahead-and-use-my-electricity.

Turns out this is Mr. Tesla’s car as well. NOW HE’S USING BOTH OUR PARKING SPACES.

I write him one more text. “You can’t use our spaces. Do I have to contact management?”

He writes back: “I moved the car and I hope I never have to talk to you again.”

Don’t you love it? He’s the aggrieved party and I’m a bitch.

“Duh,” my friend Vik points out. Let’s add it up. ” Expensive car in a very ordinary city rental loft building. Broken windows. Out of town. A drug dealer, dummy.”

She’s probably right. I’m being all sweet and friendly to a drug dealer. Get an edge, Janie girl.

The following Monday, we have the day to spend in Portland. I get the bright idea to drive out to the regional shopping center for lunch at a hot, new Taiwanese restaurant. It’s the week before Christmas. A shopping center. Traffic jam for miles. What made me think we could even find a parking space, should we ever eventually even get to the shopping center?

We have lunch instead at a restaurant just down the block from our condo the Ten Barrel, a brew pub with a seat-yourself vibe. The menu’s a QR code. I don’t have a reader activated on my phone. Turns out, Larry does, but by the time we figure out how to use it, we’re not even hungry any more. Couldn’t you just write the menu on a chalk board? Burgers, fries. Simple..

Sigh. Time is passing us by, but more slowly here in the country, flock of sheep across the road, blue herons in the vernal pool, Muddy Creek at flood stage. At the moment Larry is upstairs in his “office” watching the Rose Bowl. I’m knitting a sweater for Alli. Ripping it out and knitting it again. Harder than it looks!

Anybody have any good resolutions? I do, but I think I won’t say them out loud. It’s a brand new chance to get it better, if not completely right. Yes, I know I won’t/can’t keep them, but the idea did put me to sleep last night (finally) when I wasn’t able to solve the question of why the new year starts 11 days after the solstice. I mean, new year? Time? I’ll ask my sister, Mary, the bio-physicist. I’ll get back to you.

TRIBE

After a quiet Thanksgiving, the West Coast members of the Viehl clan were rounded up to join in celebrating Elsa’s wedding. Elsa is the grand-daughter of Allan Viehl, (Larry’s brother), daughter of Kelly Viehl Anderson, and thus a full-blood member of the tribe. The ceremony was to be in Boone, Iowa, and no, I’d never heard of it either. But I’m not blood at all, so feel a bit like an interstellar time traveler when my space ship delivers me to a tribal event such as this wedding.

The West Coast members are, at this time, Larry, Peter, and Andrew Viehl. We were missing Allison, Peter’s wife, and David. Allison gave up her place for the trip to Andrew, and the other available Viehl, David, simply wasn’t available.

Tom and Jenny and I were happy be to hangers-on when the space ship was this beauty:

Yep. A private plane. Seriously? But the tribe called, and why not? We landed in Des Moines, checked into a motel in Urbandale, and went to find something to eat. Which turned out to be an affair called Smokey D’s, once featured on Guy Fieri. They do know their BBQ in Iowa, and how to serve it. Check. I experience the first wave of sweet mid-Western culture in a place where infants and toddlers can be observed chewing on a rib.

By the way, the legend on Andrew’s jacket means Just Enjoy This Life — a good mandate which were were determined to observe.

On to Ames the next day in our rental cars. A moment of hilarity when the dude checking out the cars wondered if Peter and Larry were twins. What? No, that lasted longer than a moment and soon became the springboard for lots of smart remarks. Of course, Larry loved it.

At the new motel we were able to check in, change into our wedding finery, and be off to the wedding in the afore-mentioned Boone. At the end of several dirt roads, we found the wonderful barn-like structure, a newly, purposefully built, venue. And there they all were.

At this moment I discovered that I’d left my phone behind in my every-day purse, and would have to rely on others for photos to share.

First, here are Larry and Allan. Allan has had the misfortune to stumble on the stairs at home on Thanksgiving Day, to break both bones in his left leg, and thus get to attend the wedding courtesy of a wheel chair. Now these two might look like twins, right?

Fortunately, Allan had his boys there to take care of him. They run big in this tribe, as you can see from the next photo, which, sorry, is the only one I can offer. This is Kyle, Allan’s second son, dad to Delaney who, upon learning that we were coming, was shocked. “You mean there’s more Viehls than just us?”

My sister-in-law, Gloria, is one of those talented, amazing women who can make works of art out of the assignment to make, for example, cookies for the reception.

She made those? Dozens of them, all different? Yes, plus little place-treats, cookie pops dressed up in a tux or bridal gown, by the hundreds. I think Starbucks got the idea from her. Anyway, she belongs to a tribe of her own, the Gaymans, who were there with husbands and sons and daughters and grandkids . . .

What about the bride? Getting there. Elsa is Kelly’s youngest, and she is stunning, gorgeous, smart, and well, tall like the rest of them. As the attendants were coming down the aisle ahead of the bride, we were treated to one beautiful, very tall young woman after another. Ah. Got it. Elsa played college b-ball, and these women were her team-mates and friends. Wow.

I don’t know anything much about the groom, except he seems pretty happy. Duh.

I got to sit next to Steve, Elsa’s dad, at the wedding dinner. He’s a devoted, successful hunter — if you’re his Facebook friend you could see the photos of the gorgeous birds he brings down and home. I took the opportunity to query him about cooking the elk steak I mentioned in an earlier post, and told him I’d post the results. That will have to wait until I actually cook the steaks, and then I’ll let you all know.

I had a chance to talk with Ken, Kristi Viehl’s husband, who works for the FAA, doing traffic control for the Sioux City airport. He’s a lieutenant colonel in the Air Guards, spends active duty when deployed, wherever they send him. Such as the Middle East, for example. This year, somewhere in the southern U.S. Not sure where, but it does mean being away from home for the duration. From Kristi and their two munchkins, Emerson and Hudson. Tough. Appreciated.

We were with the tribe for about 7-8 hours out of a three-day trip. All worth it. Especially as we got to be with our own far-flung segment for the entire time. And who wouldn’t like flying in a sweet little airplane, with a pilot who graduated OSU in ’17, who began flying with his dad at the age of 6, who got his license at the age of 17? Even this confirmed flightophobe could relax and enjoy looking down on the plains and mountains of this-land-is-your land, etc. Okay, I’m lying. I didn’t actually relax. But the mountains are exciting seen from that close.

Back at the farm, Larry has recovered his mojo, successfully tuned the tractor with an appliance delivered by Amazon. Say what you will.

Yesterday, a rain-filled, dismal, morning, a crew arrived to remove huge patches of blackberry, which they’d earlier sprayed to death. And now, the fields are mowed, the leaves spent, fall has arrived. Welcome home.

LIFE IN THE TIME

Upon opening my site, I learn that I’m running on an outdated PHT program, or similar, and wouldn’t I like to update? NOOOO! Please don’t make me! I’ll proceed on the hope that the machine won’t reach out and cancel me in the fashion so popular of late. So, until such time, here we go:

David and Caroline arrived safely for a visit, upon completion of physical exams mandated by their application for limited entry into the promised land of New Zealand. Said application requires quite a bit of input from Larry, proving that a long-ago transfer of certain assets to our kids was indeed legitimate. Like, “were you a robot? Prove it! What is your favorite pet’s middle name, and did your mother ever live in Tallahassee Florida?”

While we’re always happy to see our family, we’re not too proud to put them to work. See Jenny and family splitting wood on earlier post. David is tall and strong, and finally we have someone who can get those canvasses hung in the entry hall.

My needlepoint project for the last couple of years — those of you familiar with the creation story will be alarmed that we’ve hung the canvasses in the incorrect order. We know. This is to balance the size of the frames, so not necessary to write a letter to the editor.

Caroline proved her worth when she was able to decode the free-standing wall-mounted heat/ac appliance in “my office” aka “the room over the garage.” Been freezing up there of late, so her clever manipulation of digital devices was life-changing for us.

Off to Seattle to see Jenny and Tom, to have a look at the new house. It’s going to be gorgeous!

The first photo is obvious, the second is the garden wall in the back yard. Not sure that the Ederers are as enchanted as am I with the cosy, private nature of the fence, but their garden will have no lawn, and looks like the perfect urban retreat.

We had dinner at a sweet little Madison Park Italian restaurant and caught up with stories featuring Alli, busy cooking and posting gorgeous recipes, and Will, dealing with sleeping porch issues in the Beta house on the U Dub campus.

In Portland, the infuriating problems with the condo keep multiplying. First, the necessity of replacing the air conditioning unit above the laundry room launched us into the great throng of citizens affected by the dreaded Supply Chain Affair. Several months in, we finally received the parts, and worker bees would be able to dismantle the entire room for installation. But wait. They cannot get into the condo. Nope. Neither can we. The fobs and codes do not work any longer. Somehow, the building owner thinks its okay to lock us out of our home. I’ll spare you the narrative, but we are still waiting. We do finally have, dear reader, a single fob to get us up the elevator, and a single fob to let us into the garage, but must await the pleasure of the building manager to receive the extras that we need.

Back at the farm, what happened to the guy from Applied Ecology who was supposed to meet with us and make plans? The one who simply didn’t come on the arranged day two weeks ago? He came yesterday, bringing apologies and an apparently sincere promise to help. This is an organization which will assist owners with habitat restoration. He says he’ll bring an associate, who’s an arborist, to walk the property, assess what changes we can make to attract native plants and animals (to include soil microorganisms). Sounds good! Basically, we just want a comprehensive plan for the savanna, the riparian forest, the wetland, the oak copse — all with differing eco requirements.

The leaves have fallen, the spent vines and stalks in the garden have been piled behind the fence, the huge bounty of grapes are quietly falling to the ground to be harvested by honey bees and, alas, yellow-jackets. We’ve moved the tender perennials to the greenhouse, turned off the automatic watering system. We’ve heard the first flocks of geese flying past, and built the first fires in the fireplace.

We attended the first concert of the Oregon symphony held in Salem. It feels lovely to be hearing live music again, and yet . . . masks. Martha will arrive in the morning, and we’ll go to Eugene for the first ballet of the season. Masks. Again. Yes, this may be the future, forever, and we will adjust, but some of the magic is dimmed. It just is.

For me, the time of Covid has also been the time of Books, and I’m currently reading one that’s so complex and wonderful that I’m happy for all 575 pages. Even though, a BOTM club volume, it’s hard-back, and thus heavy. Only a problem because I like to stretch out on the sofa and read while lying down. No, I know you always sit up straight and have good lighting, and I’m proud of you. Oh, yeah. The book is The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles. I’ll loan you my copy if you’d like. I’m already on p. 497.

Lunch time, and we’re out of bread. Larry has changed the leaking shower, paid the taxes, cleaned the chicken coop, but can’t deliver more of his awesome bread for sandwiches. Hmm. Must troll the refrige for leftovers. See you next time!

SOLSTICE

“Oh my gosh! Larry! Come quick!”

“What?”

“I don’t know. A really big cat, and it has a long tail. Just walking along behind the fence.” But Larry can’t come quick, and by the time he stumps into the dining room, I’ve become impatient and opened the door to the porch. The animal startles, stares, and bounds away. Larry can just see his head as he disappears into the weeds.

“Looks like a feral cat.”

“No, it’s bigger than that. What does a cougar look like?”

“Jane.” He knows I like a good story, but he isn’t willing to go so far as cougar. “I don’t know. It was probably just a cat.”

So he doesn’t believe me. My bad. I shouldn’t have opened the door. But I know what I saw. “You do know because I just told you.”

Ha. Won that argument.

And while I can’t really ID a cougar, I am pretty confident of my skills in the kitchen. Example:

Right. You can probably tell that the first shot was an apple pie that stayed in the oven too long, but you might need help recognizing an angel food cake in the second. Doesn’t work without a tube pan.

Maybe it was just a cat.

And Kelly, I’m glad you’re not piggy-backing on my Hulu account!

Larry and I had an executive meeting to plot preparations for fall. 1.) Pull out the wire mesh around the orchard trees, fertilize, determine how to deal with the chickens digging around the tree roots. 2.) Build shelves in the new shed. 3.) Clean and organize the old shed. 4.) Move the picnic table down to the barn. 5.) Move tender plants into the greenhouse. Most of these chores demand a two-legged man, so we’re working on that, too.

We’re asked to decide what to do about the newly prepared pastures. Plant something now to look better, which will be sprayed next spring before planting with fescue? Just leave the dirt fallow, do nothing, and spray whatever comes up next spring before planting with fescue?

Why not plant some nitrogen-fixing legume, then till it in? I ask. Don’t spray! We need advice, but Jarod, of F&W says this question is above his pay grade. We remembered Donna Schmidt, Benton County, recommending the Institute of Applied Ecology. Sounds pretty fancy, and right here in Corvallis! I phoned them, got connected with the director, who has expressed interest in seeing what we’re up to, and will come out here next Tuesday to have a look and make suggestions. This is good!

And here’s what’s fun: Over the weekend, Amy and Mike came to town to visit Amy’s sister, Marjorie, and Ted. They had expressed interest in collecting some of our oak firewood to take back to their home in the mountains near Prineville. They’re pretty amazing. Just back from a long trip across country, camping out every night on the way. They heat their home with just a wood stove. They eat, Mike tells us, only meat that they harvest. “harvest!” That’s a word.

“Do you hunt with bow or rifle?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says.

I have a photo, but it wouldn’t be fair — you’ll just have to imagine the glorious push-broom mustache and the laughing eyes behind it.

Someone mentioned the big cat I’d seen earlier that day. Amy, who reminds me of my own sister, Mary, asked a couple of questions about it/him, and pronounced cougar. Yes! She explained that a 2 year old male would be looking for his own territory in this season. Neither Larry nor I doubt her authority.

They loaded the trailer and as they were leaving, Mike produced a package of two frozen elk steaks for us. Like New York strip, he said, and proceeded to tell us how to cook them. We must use a tenderizer gadget, he insisted, and be sure to under-cook them. In a cast iron skillet or on the fire. Well. Wow.

And speaking of sisters, Happy Birthday, Martha! A day late, but she’ll forgive me, I think, because I gave her a present: A jigsaw puzzle featuring insects arranged artistically. Yep. Good old Dad.

See you in October!

SKUNKED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G’night!

QUARANTINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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