Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Began a spending hiatus today. It occurs to me that living a rural life is not necessarily more affordable than big-city dining and shopping. The feed store. The lumberyard. The vet bill and the seed catalogs. The -- gasp -- fuel for the Suburban. So I spent $1.98 this morning and vowed not to spend again for 10 days. I can do this. In solidarity, my farmchick (is that trademarked by our suspected soul sisters up north?) neighbor will stop spending too. We'll stop the "encouragement" of running into our nearby college town for a mocha. We'll stop finding fabulous deals for just a week and a half. We'll look into our barns and cavernous shop bays and say, wow, we have a ton of crap that was yesterday's treasure. A heap of projects waiting for a day or week of inspiration and nothing else to do. The bins of ebayable vintage-y pottery and fabric and whatnot.

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

A Whole Lotta Love

For Valentine's Day, Ryan brought home a bag of truffles, a velvet-flocked card that he chose for his gramma (I think my sass may get me in trouble here), and a balloon and book for each of our three girls. We live in the boondocks, so stopping after work at at least two stores for love gifts was pretty heroic. We ate Costco roasted chicken and salad. I can cook, just not on Valentine's Day.

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.

Farm Suite Start

Technically speaking:

(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.