Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Or maybe fools' gold.
When I was a little girl, my dad owned a tree planting business. This took us out of Oregon several summers in a row, to the great sky country of Montana. While Dad and the crews reforested, Mom took my brother and me on day trips to ghost towns and butterfly hatchings, canyons and rivers and amazing natural features. But the thing that I remember best is the fool's gold. We brought huge chunks of it back to our rented cabin and were so excited to show it to my dad, who of course turned it into a history and geology lesson.
Anyway, here in Oregon, in our 1887 church-turned-farmhouse, we live smack next door to a quaint B&B resplendent in cedar ciding, custom cabinetry, and deep front and rear covered porches. It's a small bed and breakfast, with just two guest rooms, but very charming and wine-country-chic.
Today it went on the market for $650,000. I received a couple of calls from fellow Realtors wondering what could make the tiny collection of buildings on two acres worth nearly twice their own personal estimates. I was stumped. In fact I told both real estate agents that it must be one of the mini-wineries on the hill just down our road. 3000-plus square feet each, with private vineyards covering acres of hillsides. This made much more sense. But then this afternoon, while sewing new curtains for the den, I received a third call, this time from a friend's husband who works on the county road crew.
"I'm out pulling signs from the right-of-way," he said.
"Do I have something in the county truck?" I replied. Signs cost money and I'd rather mine didn't linger in the county boneyard for the crime of misplacement. No, he just wanted me to know about the Re/MAX sign next door and the fact that my dog was digging up the grange's side yard.
After hauling the dog home with an unidentified bone, and incidentally herding our free-range chickens off of the B&B front porch (I have NEVER seen them leave our property before), I confirmed the Realtor rumors for my own self.
I hope it sells for a quarter million more than it appraised one year ago. But I hope we don't get any neighbors who want the rest of us to start living like the millionaire next door.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
My girls are home from school, the oldest frantically recreating her last two weeks' menus for a nutrition journal. I personally would go for creative writing on that one, but she is very literal. The teacher may not appreciate my menu planning, but he ought to give her an A for her memory. Each bowl of squash soup and each plate of butter noodles is carefully recorded, albeit with a procrastinatory streak she got from me.
An author's note at the beginning of a book I'm reading thanks her family for eating "pretty much whatever" when the writer is on deadline.
Tomorrow I leave for a three-day writing retreat and today I have no words.
Okay, so that's never literally true for me. I have no worthy words. We have spent all of my words these past weeks on lawyers and title officers and accountants and I am more likely to use my retreat in a monklike silence than in finishing a manuscript.
The leaves outside have begun to turn. We had our first frost and the garden withered into the black mushy stuff that is hard to believe ever was edible, even to our ravenous deer population. The chickens, so briefly laying after a fall molt, are now rebelling again. The horses are muddy and furry and my mother-in-law retrieved her clippers so their manes are looking decidedly mohawkish.
The grass hasn't yet begun to green, even though the rainstorms have filled all the leftover summer toys in the yard with rust-colored water. My pantlegs are soaked with dew after each morning's chores. I pulled six dried cornstalks and cut armloads of rosehips and decorated the front porch. I trimmed (almost all of) the lavender hedge and filled three grocery bags with the makings of sachets and eye pillows and Christmas bazaar sales. This all feels pretty rural-lite because nearly every day I have put on citified clothes, or my most citified maternity clothes, and visited a professional to help us wade through the IRS and business-buying and property-selling issues that populate my non-rural, non-mom world.
We did attend the Rural Art Center's movie premiere of the season. Each fall and winter, the RAC lures us from fireside evenings once a month to watch a movie and eat popcorn and socialize in the grange hall. We haven't attended before, but this offering was family-friendly. A screening of the 1927 silent film "The General," filmed in Cottage Grove, along with shorts by local teens and professional filmmakers about Oregon wildlife. I now know quite a bit about nutria. I wish I could say that's what drove me to spend so much time in the city of late.
More after my trip to the coast.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I'm not sure I'm ready for the the change of seasons. Or maybe I subconsciously am. It seems about this time every year the watering of the garden and flowerbeds gets to be too much ... and getting out of bed gets harder. The chickens and rabbits noticed my tardiness this morning. The horses were stomping and calling for me, blowing their steamy horse breath around the paddock with impatience. I wore one of Ryan's big denim shirts and tread the fine line between hurrying and not slipping on frosty grass.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
There's Sarah at an end-of-season minor league baseball game. The girls went with Ryan. I don't think the Ems won, but the victory was still there.
I am thinking a lot this week about Madeleine L'Engle. The wrinkly time between my ninth birthday and now, nearly three decades later, when that great lady is now no longer on earth. I have wished to write to her for more than 20 years, for more time than I thought of myself as a writer. I have held out the letter-writing dream as some sort of icon of communication, of mentorship possibility. Every dog-eared book of hers I've collected through Powell's Bookstore and Ebay and hole-in-the-wall vacation spots, I've read with the undercurrent that her words expressed some inexplicable, some circle of quiet I sought and couldn't reach. Now that I know I can't correspond with my hero I am sobered to realize that the passing of the generations is real. Somewhere I read that she had been accused, gently, of too often appearing to be about to burst forth with greatness only to state the obvious. Oh, I wish I could state the obvious so sublimely, in such a way that others would be glad it had been said.
My oldest daughter is named after her; a little presumptious, possibly, but there are other great Madeleines too. I even gained parenting insight through another meditation of Ms. L'Engle's. She wrote at length and brilliantly about the appropriate use of icons. I came to see that my little Madeleine's much-loved teddy bear was nothing short of an icon for the stability of her world. That the bear represented all being right, Mommy and Daddy in the room, warmth and love and more. Who, then, could take away or wean a child from such an icon?
Everything is not alright with my world. I would love to have an icon of comfort and peace to remind me of God's goodness and grace. Of course there are many symbols of goodness, but I could really use something to hold on to.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Ryan and I took the girls camping in our 1953 canned ham this month. It poured and blew gale force winds. We were grateful for the shelter of the trailer and bravely tried to roast mallows in the spitting precip. A family of Barbie and Ken models from Germany camped next to us in their rented Winebago, eating organic yogurt at their dinette set and unabashedly staring while I cooked spaghetti and the girls went swimming in the KOA pool in the rain. All-American fun, I tell you. I casually mentioned on the way home that we might trade the canned ham in for a larger, bathroom-equipped RV. Sarah was incensed. "Then no one would point and smile at us anymore, Mom."
While we were gone, the neighbors watered (not like I do, of course, and the hanging petunias will never be the same) and fed the horses, chickens, rabbits and cats. The dog went with us. My mother snuck in and cleaned our house. It was 85 degrees and sunny the entire week at home. Our vegetable garden was invaded by deer. Ryan and I each bought books at a roadside used book store. Our optimism was laudable. Mostly we played dominoes and went on scavenger hunts and constructed rain gutters out of duct tape and washed sandy clothes in the KOA "clubhouse." We paid too much for ice cream and pancakes. We made memories and came home and were glad to do so.
One week later, we dropped the girls at Grandpa and Grandma's and returned to the coast. No kids and no dog and no travel trailer.
This was an entirely different sort of trip of course. Sylvia Beach and the phoneless, televisionless oceanview library. The Tables of Content restaurant and plently of time to read, sleep in, eat seafood. 70 degrees and sunny and incredibly wind-free walks on the beach. We have been married 15 years. We have three little girls and a baby on the way. We have three and a half horses and our children can discuss literature (well, Dr. Suess and E.B. White) and help in the garden. It's good to be back.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Our local deli has changed hands. It is housed in a 100+-year-old general store and still has that dusty aroma of the Old West. The New Owners, however, are not so much loving the traditions. And we are not so in love with the improved menu, staff, antiseptic and etc.
Although it's been so long since I posted, let me say that Grace and I are heading out the door to grab some bacon at the aforementioned deli. The big girls are at school -- only six more days -- and the baby and I will not have many more dates before the Fall.
Friday, March 2, 2007
So it's not fair at all to start a reflection on my current situation with a story about my baby sister. It's just that I'm in a really unfamiliar boat here, navigational tools labeled in another language, on a sea for which I received no map. When I was dreaming of my life at 35 I was pretty sure it would be designed by me. But as my territory increases and my knowledge decreases by the inverse (math is not my strong point, I think I may have mentioned), I am stunned to find that I do not know what the hell I want, or even if I have it now.
So here is what I have, on loan from God, in no particular order: three daughters ages 8, 6 and 3; a husband who chronically works just a bit longer than the time at which he plans to arrive home (I may have to edit that later, but it's the truth); a real estate career as hot and cold as the market; acreage in the currently swamped Lorane Valley; a 100-plus-year-old shacky shack that once held Sunday School pews; another 100-plus-year-old home on a city lot a mere 20 minutes away, which we rent to another family who wishes they lived in the country (oh, maybe I'm wrong about that, but they want to keep livestock in the back yard); a Shetland pony, an Arab, a Quarterhorse, a Mustang and a Thoroughbred (just in case anyone should consider us particular to a certain breed of equine); various animals weighing less than 80 pounds apiece; too many bills for comfort.
And that last little bit is the crux of the problem. What I do for a living and what I do for life, these things are looking mutually exclusive and I don't know how to reconcile the two.
Maudlin musings not suitable for public consumption.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Hey, my gramma used to say whatnot. And she had the most beautifully organized pantry. I am sure she was the original Martha Stewart, out of necessity. She lived as simply and beautifully as MaryJane Butters (I just heard *she's* launching a home dec line, how great and somehow contradictory is that?) and never thought twice about saving the 20 inches of twine from that package and the buttons off that shirt and...
I have the top drawer of her dresser, contents and all. In it are a stack of used cards, presumably to cut up to make gift tags; a box of privacy envelopes; a rectangular magnifying glass; her well-used crossword dictionary; a ball of string; several pencils sharpened with pocketknives. It smells of her talcum powder. The dividers are meticulously covered in old wrapping paper and wallpaper and cut out of the thinnest balsa wood. An emery board has its own compartment. I can see the order and thrift of my gramma, "Mummu" as the Finns say, and I can wish really, really fervently to see her again.
She was raised on a Wisconsin Dairy farm that I think is in the family still. She gave birth to my aunt in a log cabin and paid for the doctor's services with a flat of raspberries. I might be mixing that story up with the next aunt, who I'm pretty sure was delivered for the fee of a pie. So my born-and-bred farmchick grandmother brought every bit of make-do with her to San Francisco before my father and uncle were born. She made best farmchick friends with her next-door-neighbor Maude. They had a lifelong friendship in which Maude was my father's second mother and my grandma's eventual move to Oregon to live on my parent's property only meant they wrote each other every day. Every day. Their letters were like journals that traveled by mail to the safekeeping of a best friend.
Maude and her husband Arthur moved too, to Montana. A little cabin on little acreage with a sky-huge view. The letters continued. Often they would mail one another fabric. My grandma made strip quilts and rag rugs and Maude tore worn sheets, shirts and whatnot into the strips that my grandma needed.
So I'm going to go 10 days without spending money, immersed in our little farmette. Playing with the pony and my girls and going through the heaps to find something worth tearing into strips. I'll keep you posted.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Today, we are celebrating Presidents' (President's?) Day by covering the hardwoods with Legos and incidentally by hanging curtain rods. We moved to the aforementioned boondocks six months ago but still don't have window treatments. You might think, "what's the matter? it's the boondocks, she keeps saying." However, our version of country hobby farming looks more like the center hub of 1887. Our home is an 1887-built church which faces another church (still a church) that was built in 1906. From our front windows we can see a Rebecca Lodge, the church, its parsonage, an underground house currently under renovation, a milk goat farm and a grange hall. It's the center of town, really.
So every sixth Saturday night or so the grange hosts a movie night, and we put on a show for folks from the surrounding 10 mile radius or so. Not to mention Monday night Fire Hall volunteer training and of course the construction crew for the hobbit house. The ladies who own the goat farm may or may not appreciate being able to watch our every move inside the fishbowl. The pastor and his wife and their three children recently moved from the parsonage, mostly to get out of the center of the universe feeling that this tiny hub can engender. So we don't have to worry about offending them.
It's incredibly quiet here. We are 15 miles away from any train tracks, and further from an interstate freeway. The "highway" that we can see from our back windows is a country road that most use to get in to Eugene for work. Sometimes log trucks use their jake brakes. I never knew what a jake brake was before, so you should know it's noisy. I don't know why they use them, possibly to say hello, boondocks, I'm coming through. Are all of your cows in the fences?
Back to the windows: We got tired of having to put on pants to come downstairs. So Ryan is hanging curtain rods and I am procrastinating about sewing some drapes. The girls are building a Legoland. The pony is pigging out on the hay Ryan and a neighbor picked up Saturday between rainstorms. Hay is expensive this year... more on that later, possibly. It is a pretty quiet Presidents' Day. I still am not sure about that apostrophe.
(Posted in January, can't figure out how to connect with my blog now that Google's in charge. So it's funny that I named it technically speaking, as proud as I was that I figured out how to sign up for a blog. Less than a month later, I am slayed by the dragon of internet unawareness. Pride goes before what?)
I am sort of amazed our phone lines are working long enough to sign in. In a long slow way we've left big-city, high-tech, the-firm-owns-me life until finally finding our home on a farmette in the Napa of the North otherwise known as Lorane, Oregon. Lorane is unincorporated as a town but has its own dot-com, thanks to some high-tech transplants no doubt.While I grew up near here on 10 gentleman farming acres and my husband grew up in similarly rural-suburban digs near Eureka, California, our first daughter was born in Portland, Oregon. The hospital has more employees than the entire Lorane Valley has residents. Ryan worked in the "big pink," I think the tallest skyscraper in the city of a million or so people. I worked in a sunny corner of a vintage building, editing market research reports on the masses' tolerance for technical change. I worried about the bleeding edge. Our 1924 Crafstman bungalow in Northeast had a lovely view of 24 apartment windows on one side and of Mount Hood's snowy peaks if you stood on tiptoes on the front porch. Our daughter would not be able to ride trikes here; the next-door neighbor had her concealed weapon stolen a couple of times. She dealt antiques. Nobody stole those.So Ryan's engineering career demanded a lot of hours and we were expecting our second baby and we noticed that Eugene's traffic was much less likely to kill you. We noticed that housing was slightly more affordable. We noticed that my parents lived in Eugene. We moved. We moved and moved and moved. We didn't move like people who are in touch with what they want, with their goals firmly in place. We didn't rent -- we bought. We bought four houses, each with its interesting points and leaky roof and power stations next door and bad neighbors on cute cul de sacs. We even bought a house we loved in Cottage Grove. A 1910 Dutch Colonial on a quarter acre with four bedrooms and a covered back porch. We had our third daughter.And you can't keep a pony on a quarter acre. You can keep chickens in town (no roosters) and you can keep rabbits, but you cannot keep ponies nor 4-H calves. And you can't keep moving. We told everyone we'd settled. Ryan with his nice municipal engineering job and me with my real estate career and this lovely home with Southern exposure in the tiny hamlet of Cottage Grove. Twice selected an All American City. A Tree City USA. Truly a great town. But of course it is a town.I am glad to report that it is Ryan's doing that we moved this last time. He was sneaking around taking the long way home from work, is what it was. I tried of course to not move. What would our family say? How could we leave our beautiful home? Move our girls from school? He pointed out the 1887-built 4-bedroom, 2-bath cottage that was once a church. Oh, did I mention? We sleep in the choir loft. We cook in the pulpit. We can look at our stone foundation and recognize those same stones in the history book pictures.Our girls walk to the Lorane Elementary school. Our view out our front windows encompasses the grange, the school, the Rebecca Lodge and the church we walk to on Sunday mornings. Our back windows capture a view of distant Lorane Mountain and of our tiny barn and the girls' tiny pony. Our rabbit -- the sole survivor of the in-town rabbitry -- luxuriates in a three-bay hutch and waits for a wife. We plan an orchard and a greenhouse. We plan a large organic garden a more deer fencing. Another horse. We don't plan on it, but everyone stops in. Our country getaway has become grand central. Before school, after school, weekends and more our new friends pull in for a cup of tea, to lend a hand, to ask for help. We are blessed in ways I can't describe, and we've only lived here six months.Ryan uses the shop that a local hero, Lloyd Counts, did all of his metalwork in. Lloyd stopped by to tell us about property lines and community politics and the hundreds of pairs of spurs he made in that shop. He and his wife raised their children in this house and there's nothing he couldn't tell us about the history of the community. Lloyd still lives in Lorane, on a family ranch. We hope we can inherit with the house some of the community's respect for Lloyd and his much-loved late wife Estelle. More than one longtime Loranian has let us know how special she was to them. She baked cookies for generations of schoolchildren to pick up on their way home. She had daffodils there... and tulips there... and here's where her kitchen table was. I wish we had met her.So we've lost high-speed traffic, high-speed internet and high-speed life. What we've gained I hope to chronicle here. If you are hobby farming, I'd love to hear from you.