Home for a Month and Counting

April 7, 2013

Yes, we have been home for a month, and an update on life at the farm seems prudent.  We have worked through most of the major problems that plagued us upon our return.  Thankfully, we once again have overhead lights.  It was a curious problem that took 5 days, an electrician and $$$ to resolve.  Thank the dear Lord for headlamps, and the diagnostic help of wonderful son, Justin, or I fear we would still be wandering around in the dark.

A trip to Norvac for parts.  (upon installation, the newly purchased transformer blew up)

A trip to Norvac for parts. (upon installation, the newly purchased transformer blew up)

Dad and Justin formulating a plan

Dad and Justin formulating a plan

Justin and Dad working on the lights

Justin and Dad working on the lights

Perhaps I had turned the heat down a little too low for a 52 year-old house that was left to its own devices for 2 months.  Things didn’t work well upon our return.  It took about a week and a half of 70-degree interior warmth to un-stick cupboard doors and drawers.  I am thinking that this foible went unnoticed by some, which certainly worked in my favor.  After 2 months in a warm desert climate, we were accustomed to not being “cold” and to having things open and shut with ease.  It didn’t help that when I walked into the house after our absence and cranked up the thermostat, it took 9 hours for the furnace to bring the temperature up to a livable warmth.  (I think this constitutes a problem with the heat pump, but we’re not thinking about that now.)

I am one of those folks who clean like crazy before I leave on a trip.  I look forward to returning to a clean house.  The ensuing mess of the return is, somehow, not so overwhelming when you have empty surfaces to stack things on.  Those “new piles” of miscellaneous things seem to make their presence known a little easier.  Knowing that we would be gone for an extended period, I made sure that there was no food left that would spoil.  For some reason that I don’t really understand, even after all this work, I ended up with yet another situation.  I returned home to a kitchen that I now share with mice.  Yes, MICE.  My nemesis.  They entered through the range and left their nasty calling card on the pans I had stored there.  Then they traveled to the counter where, I can only guess, they frolicked…….often.  Dad is a great “trapper,” and within the first week of our return, he caught two mice in the house, and one in the garage.  I have cleaned, sanitized, and enlisted the help of Oscar, the cat.  I am not so trusting, but am hopeful that at the one month point, the mice are history.  By the way, Oscar didn’t seem to either be interested in hunting them down, or was unsuccessful in his attempts.

Oscar watching something outside (showing his hunting prowess)

Oscar watching something outside (showing his hunting prowess)

Oscar in the oven.  I am pretty sure he smelled something.

Oscar in the oven. I am pretty sure he smelled something.

We returned to some fairly mild spring weather, and used it to prune all the fruit trees and begin the process of weeding.  The tree pruning took the better part of a week.

The Gravenstein apple.  The oldest and largest of our trees, prior to pruning

The Gravenstein apple. The oldest and largest of our trees, prior to pruning

Craig, in the tree, pruning

Craig, in the tree, pruning

Cutting the suckers off is the easier part of the job.  The next steps involve picking up and shredding everything that is on the ground.

Craig, using the "Bearcat" shredder

Craig, using the “Bearcat” shredder

And then there is weeding – endless weeding.  I really felt like this task was going well, until we had several days of rain that made the beds I had carefully weeded look like I hadn’t touched them.  Ah…..spring in Oregon.

By far, the project that continues to give us something to talk about, is the addition to the shed, otherwise known as the new home for the Hag when she is not traveling.  It looked like this would be easy.  The contractor was fairly highly recommended.  But no, this is a job that appears to have no end point.  Instead of breaking ground when the weather was good, there was a delay due to the building permit not being issued…..(because the builder hadn’t applied for it until mid-February!!)  There have been delays due to weather, trusses that were not a match to the existing building, concrete, workers, lack of equipment…….I could go on and on.  But…..the builder is a “nice guy.”  And so, we watch, we wait, and we are ever hopeful that somehow, it will come to an end.  An end where the new addition and the existing shed will match not only at the roofline but inside and outside as well.  It doesn’t look promising.

The beginning.  Everyone watches with the excitement and promise that a new project brings.

The beginning. Everyone watches with the excitement and promise that a new project brings.

Everything is wet.....the 5' deep holes are overflowing with water

Everything is wet…..the 5′ deep holes are overflowing with water

Yes, this was wonderful fun.  The contractor needed more help, so I jumped right in.

Yes, this was wonderful fun. The contractor needed more help, so I jumped right in.

And, this is where we are today.  Notice the flashing has blown off the existing building on the left side of the photo.   They cut it yesterday, knowing that a large rain/wind storm was heading our way.  It's. A. Mess.

And, this is where we are today. Notice the flashing has blown off the existing building on the left side of the photo. They cut it yesterday, knowing that a large rain/wind storm was heading our way. It’s. A. Mess.

It's entirely possible that the root of the problem lies right here in the water.....yesterday was one long "smoke break."

It’s entirely possible that the root of the problem lies right here in the water…..yesterday was one long “smoke break.”

The high points of the last month involved things outside in the yard.  I planted asparagus, onions, and Hood strawberries, and I transplanted the 50-year old rhubarb into one of the raised garden beds where it will never thirst for water in the summer.  There was a LOT of discussion regarding whether or not this beloved plant would survive the move.  I KNEW it would, and so far, it has.  It provided us with rhubarb for pie on Easter.

From front to back:  rhubarb, seedling onions, onion sets

From front to back: rhubarb, seedling onions, onion sets

The rhubarb three weeks later!

The rhubarb three weeks later!

Planting the asparagus

Planting the asparagus

The asparagus today

The asparagus today

We also joined the “Home Orchard Society,” a group dedicated to educating the home orchardist and preserving varietal apples, pears, cherries, plums, etc.  We attended their annual “scion exchange” and picked up several grafted trees and some scion wood for grafting.

Plant nerds unite!  The annual Home Orchard Society scion exchange!  (It's a BIG  DEAL!)

Plant nerds unite! The annual Home Orchard Society scion exchange! (It’s a BIG DEAL!)

To explain, scion wood is the new growth on a fruit tree that you prune off in the spring before the tree breaks bud.  Some people call these water sprouts.  They grow straight up, look silly, sap the trees energy, AND they don’t produce fruit.  But…….these cuttings can be grafted onto a vigorous rootstalk and then, if the graft “takes,” will create the best of both worlds – strong roots and delicious fruits.  The four trees that I had grafted at the event are looking good, and the four grafts that I did myself onto an existing pear tree look like they are going to live……the buds are swelling on the grafted scion wood.  It is nothing short of a miracle, even though my dear neighbor encouraged me to have faith and know that this practice has been going on almost forever.  It still feels pretty amazing to me!

One of the grafts -- notice the buds!

One of the grafts — notice the buds!

So, for us, life is racing along seemingly dragging us by the back of the neck.  We had hoped to take another trip before summer, but that seems to be out of the question, as we need to stay put to supervise the shed addition.  The coastal casinos will just have to wait for my easy $5 loss and the fortunate luck of either Dad or Craig.

Spring at the farm

Spring at the farm

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