Spent the weekend getting the orchard sprayed.  Waited maybe just a week too long.  A good number of the trees were budding.  No tractor and no lime sulfur – dormant oil.  Switched over to a back pack sprayer and a Linseed Oil / Fish Oil product.  Should be mild enough to get the job done without burning the delicate buds.  The big problem is the smell.  Now the sulfur was one thing but concentrated fish is… well… stinky.  Yes I wore protective gear but this is fish smell.  I managed to shower, soak in the hot tub and most of it went away.  But I’m pretty sure I need to change the water in my hot tub now.

Thanks for tucking us in…

Well we did it.  2013 is complete with the “tucking in” of the garden.  Thanks so much to Dave, Clair, Ray, John and Connie.  The garden is ready for winter.  The wild fire burn pile is ready for burning again.  Hoses were collected and the soup potluck was just in time for a little nappy.  Ok, I was the only one who took a nappy.  It was great.

Again, I just want to say thanks for another great year of co-oping.  I would like to, once again, extend the invitation for your comments and suggestions.  Let us know what we can do to improve the co-op,  We have a few ideas of our own which we will run by you as we develop them.  For now, we want to wish each and everyone of you happy holidays.  See you all in 2014 :)


Bed Time for Gardens

Getting ready to put the garden to bed.  This weekend, I will shut down the irrigation system and get ready to plant new trees.  It’s been a pivotal summer for Suzanne and I.  Because of family obligations and my mom’s passing we were hardly able to keep up with the place.  I want to extend my deepest appreciation to all of you for tending the garden and the orchard during our absence.  There were a few of you (and I know who you are) who went beyond expectations and managed some very big chores.  All without my asking.  I am humbled and so very thankful.I just want to say I am so very pleased with the Co-op arrangement and the results we’ve been getting.  I hope you do too.  Please feel free to give us feedback on things we could improve.  We had a good crop this year and I hope everyone got their share.  It’s been our pleasure and honor working, harvesting, eating and visiting with you all.


The Wind in the Trees

At the tree line, where vine maple and scrub alder retake a skid road’s assault on the forest, I try to see him.  I remember how he moved, as a dark silhouette, hulking and slow with age, working his way down the ridge into position.  From across the canyon I sit and watch on a massive stump, while the morning breaks the cold sweat between shadow and light.  Thin veils of fog rise slowly off the canyon, like spirits of the timber harvested from this clear cut.  The old logger continues down, fading in and out of the mist.  All around me I hear the sound of the wind as it presses through the remaining tall timber in the canyon.  He walks slowly out to the point of an old log landing and stands.  A rain begins softly tapping on leaves around me…  or is it my tears?  I think I can see grandpa.  As his plaid coat and the black felt hat drift from my memory’s eye, I whisper his name.

Enar was his name.  It is also my middle name.  All through my school years I kept that middle name as secret as I could.  I had no idea it was a traditional old Swedish name and I don’t think it would have mattered if I did.  I just knew it was different and my school mates would make fun of it.  I was right.  Even in my first year of college my roommates got hold of my driver’s license and discovered that name.  That first year I became EEEENaar; obviously not from respect.

Enar was the oldest boy of 10 children, born to a Swedish immigrant who brought his young wife and family to the Oregon coast from Detroit Michigan.  Eventually they made their way to the Toledo area treading southward down the coast by horse and wagon around 1910.  They built a homestead.  The family story has it, that some year’s later, great grandpa Carl just up and left his family for reasons that were not fully explained beyond name calling and expletives as only my grandpa could utter.  It probably had a great deal to do with drinking and may explain why Enar never touched a drop.  And thus the patriarch that was my grandpa was forged as he quit school, got a job, and became head of household at the tender age of 12.  Being second generation immigrants and taking into account the relative isolation of rural families in those days, Enar’s family never shook off the thick Swedish accent.  This made for a salty mix of short sentences, entwined in profanity.  Yes, they could cuss up a storm but their accent made it hard to tell cuss words from the rest.  It was if they broke each word over their knee, in the middle, and then handed them over to you for reassembly.

Enar1During my childhood, my grandpa and grandma lived just down the road from us along the Yaquina river.  It was pretty much next door.  By the time I was born Enar was no longer “falling trees”.  A tree snag (falling limb) chased him into a hole he dove into for cover and proceeded to rip his insides out.  After hours on the surgery table in Newport, he never went back to logging.  My mom, dad, aunts and uncles all stayed in Toledo as adults so hunting, fishing, brush picking, cone picking, camping and everything else, was an extended family excursion that seemed to orbit around my grandpa.  We were the clan and Enar was the laird.  There were lots of good times.  Like spending Saturdays on the Alsea, arriving early at low tide, while small commercial boats pumped the steaming tide flats for ghost shrimp in the middle of the bay.  We would dig several large pits far out, into the tideland, looking for shrimp, grubs, clams and anything else that would serve as bait.  Once we had filled our buckets, the crab pots would go into the holes we dug.  We would wait for the tide to come in as we fished for flounder.  At the end of the day we would haul in our crab pots, pack up our fish and head home.  A bonfire outside my grandpa’s place would boil a big tub of water.  We stood around that fire and cracked crab all evening long.  Those were good times when everyone looked to grandpa.  But nothing lasts forever.

Suzanne and I had been going together for nearly a year when I brought her to meet my grandpa.  As I guided my Mustang around the wet, snake venom curves of old highway 20 through the coast range, I tried to prepare her for the visit.  “Now Suzanne, I may not have told you everything you should know about my grandpa.  He’s a feisty old fart and I’m pretty sure the definition of stubborn has his picture next to it.”  Suzanne laughed… “No”, I snap, “I’m serious …and he cusses …a lot.  Way more than you can imagine”.  Suzanne appeared to acknowledge this but despite my best efforts, nobody, outside the old clan could have understood the verbal bog I was trying to describe.  It was 1977, and by then, it had been a rough few years for my grandpa.  Our extended family was consumed with ugly, spiteful divorces and grandma suffered with cancer.  In a matter of just a few years, Enar’s clan, his world, was falling apart.  And grandpa’s authoritarian tactics to keep his family together only seemed to make it worse.  But it was the only way he knew.  My relationship with my grandpa was strained.  He resented my mom’s decision to move us out to the valley, away from his domain.  I resented him for making things so hard on my mom.  But I still loved him.  I looked up to him.  My memories were fresh with the smells of sawdust in his cloths, the growl of his voice, and the wonderful taste of his pancakes (which I have yet to successfully reproduce).  But as I drove that car down the old Yaquina Bay Road, I was more concerned about how the sweetest person I had ever known would hold up to the saltiest old man I would ever know.  I could hear the Ben Colder record as Suzanne and I walked up the muddy, uneven stairway to my grandpa’s front door.  Perfect!

It had not been long since my grandma had passed.  My grandpa sat in his big chair which had been in the same spot for all of the 17 years I had been around.  It was like a worn out throne to a tired kingdom.  But some of his power was still there.  Directly to his left was the old wood stove.  I remember many nights in that room watching Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies and Hee Haw, sometimes sitting right on the stove when the temperature was right.  The greeting was pleasant enough.  I fidgeted on the couch while grandpa asked Suzanne a few short questions.  But after chatting with her for a while I could tell he liked her, even though he didn’t make the slightest attempt to tone down his language.  But then he looked over at me.  “So I hear you’re going to college” he says.  Suzanne looked at me and then at him and pretended not to understand what he just asked.  “Yes, I am grandpa”, I answered.  “And what are you goin’ to f*%kn learn there?” he scowled.  “I want to be an architect”… I said it with too little conviction.  But it was true.  Ever since the 7th grade I had focused on drafting.  By the time I had graduated from high school I had drawn up plans for a couple of houses.  Grandpa looked sternly and pointed his thick finger at me as he said “I quit school in the 6th grade, supported my ol’ man’s family and my own, and I did fine.” He balled his hand and thumped the old skinned arms of his chair, “What are they going to teach you there that you don’t f#%kn already know?”  Enar didn’t trust the outside world; not one little bit; he had no use for it.  I stammered “Well the world is changing grandpa and…”.  He interjected “so you think they have all the f#@kn answers do ya?”… For the first time with my grandpa I felt my back stiffen against him.  With my girl as witness I wanted, no needed, to stand my ground.  I felt my pride, and I responded with conviction.  “Well I suppose I’m just going to find out grandpa!  I’m not going to let any man tell me I can’t!”  With that my grandpa smiled.  “I suppose you will find out” he said.  “You’re a man now”.  I was highly suspicious.  What was he up to?  I had never seen anyone win an argument with grandpa.  With that, the visit turned pleasant enough, with grandpa telling stories while Suzanne nodded her head as if she understood what was being said.  I came away from that visit wondering who had changed.  Was it grandpa or was it me?

Years later, after Suzanne and I were married with our newborn second daughter, my aunt and uncle brought my grandpa to visit at our small apartment in Vancouver Washington.  By this time he had been suffering from the effects of a stroke for several years and was confined to a wheel chair.  The stroke had made this strong, titan of a man, with a nearly undecipherable accent, almost impossible to have any dialog with.  But I do remember this.  After a nice visit with his great granddaughters, he looked up at me with tears in his eyes.  He smiled and said “you’ve got your own family now”.  He squeezed my hand and he looked me right in the eye.  I’ll never forget that moment.  This time it felt like I finally had his complete blessing.  We both had changed.

Life does not stop even though we long to be comfortable.  When you have something really good, it’s hard to let go and see what happens next.  My grandpa came from a time when working families stayed together to face an uncaring outside world, including the government and the law.    Of course grandpa would have loved to have kept us all together.  Since he was 12 years old that was all he knew how to do.  It was everything to him.  It took him a lifetime to realize the family members who defied him were the very people who made use of his greatest gift.  That final look, the tears in his eyes and the squeeze of his hand told me that he now knew, and he was proud.  He never once ever told me he was sorry for the things he said or did.  I guess he didn’t have to.

Enar2If you stop and listen, in the hills, where the tall timber grows you’ll hear the constant sound of the wind in the trees.  If you really listen, you’ll come to understand the symphony of friction and forgiveness that is all around you.  It matters not whether my memories of my grandfather are completely accurate.  For me they have become a symbol of strength as well as the root of my own stubborn pride.  Anytime I feel a bit down because things aren’t going my way, I can sit and listen, to the wind in the trees.  I’ll remember those big hands showing me how to tie a fishing hook.  I’ll remember the way his foot tapped to music, just slightly off time.  I remember the man who gave me a bit of his own stubborn courage.  As I listen through my tears, the wind sends down a voice…  “Quit your belly aching boy”.

I say his name.  I say my middle name… “Enar”.

For my Grandpa, Enar Lee Roy Dexter Johnson  1908-1998

What Ever it Takes!

A public service

At the time of this writing, I am finally feeling like I may recover from the affliction I came down with over 5 days ago.  I missed my flu shot this year because I was too busy with business and family issues.  Time just got away from me.  Not to mention this “stinker” of the flu arrived early this year.  True to form, a few days of suffering brought me to that familiar sound in my chest that I fear.  I have a propensity for pneumonia.  I’ve had it more than a few times so I have to be careful in that regard.  I could tell things were going to get even worse so I scheduled an appointment with my doctor.  Fortunately my x-rays were clear but upon listening to my chest, my doctor had no problem loading me up with codeine cough syrup and what not.  She worked up the prescription on her computer and hit send.

As I walked up to the counter at the pharmacy, I heard someone in the back shout “oh crap, the computer’s down”.  The lady behind the counter looked at me nervously, apologized and said there is going to be a delay.  “Would you like to wait or come back later?”  I was not about to drive home and then drive back on this day.  Things were turning bad quickly for me.  I turned and walked my pasty body over to the nearest empty chair.

As I sat down next to him I couldn’t help but notice how nervous and agitated he was.  He was a medium build guy, balding, about my age, wearing a business suit and he was “healthy”.  I sat quietly, trying to suppress my cough out of courtesy.  I kept my tissues and surgical mask handy.  After about 15 minutes “healthy” man was now a bit red in the face.  He whispered an expletive and marched over to the counter.  He tersely asks the lady at the counter “What’s the hold up?  It’s been over 20 minutes.  I’m just here to get my flu shot”… The lady behind the counter suddenly gets that “oh god, we forgot all about you” look and begins to make things worse by stuttering and stammering.  I heard her apologize several times and she explained the computer was down during a rush, but it was falling on deaf ears.  Matters were made worse when they then handed him a form to fill out.  “I could have filled this out 3 times by now” he proclaimed.  He verbally brow beat them a bit more for good measure.

As he sat down next to me again with his questionnaire this “healthy” man was now visibly red to the top of his head.  He sat there and mumbled under his breath with each question he filled out.  My body, on the other hand was in utter chaos.   I had been holding back on my cough so my chest was beginning to rattle like an elephant’s growl.  My body’s thermostat was bouncing around so much my sweat glands were about to give out from overuse.  Every cell in my body was screaming like they had smashed a thumb.  I was traveling to the dark side.  I was getting grumpy.

After mumbling himself up for another tantrum the “healthy” man looked up from his questionnaire and actually attempted communications with me.  I’m sure he was looking for some commiseration.  I raised my head up slowly and locked my bloodshot, watery eyes on his.  My forehead glistened pasty white as the sweat leached the remaining color from my face.  By now the rumble in my chest granted me a voice from the dead.  “WHAT EVER IT TAKES!” I growled.  The “healthy” man’s eyes nearly popped out of his head as question marks.  “WHAT EVER IT TAKES… GET YOUR SHOT!”.  I wiped a drip of contagion from my nose with my forearm as I continued to stare him down, in lust of his “health”.

It’s quite possible all he heard was “GET AWAY” because he promptly got up and moved to the little card table where they give the shots.  He was much better behaved after that and he looked genuinely happy to get his shot.  You know, I do what I can to help.


The Sand Bank

A lone little sports car negotiates the narrow roads along the cliff side.  Switchbacks and intersections carved from the vertical slopes of brown, yellow and gold.  The sound of the racing motor is interrupted momentarily by the screeching of tires on the corners.  As the car races to the highest road it is obvious the driver does not see the unfinished sections ahead.  The car picks up speed sliding sideways on every corner, defying the physics of a lesser world.  As it hurdles off the embankment, it’s red metallic finish gleams against the backdrop of sandstone cliffs.  Nothing but the sound of wind followed by a scream, decreasing in pitch as the car seems to fall forever.  As it glances off the first outcrop there is the sound of metal crashing, bending, breaking and tearing.  The car still in one piece continues downward finally hitting the sandy bottom where it now rolls freely end over end.  Finally it comes to rest, lurching it’s wheels skyward in one final gasp.  Right next to the big plastic yellow shovel.

Making all those special effects sounds can leave a small boy with spit all over himself.  And such was the case as I wiped my face.  Mom liked the sand bank because it was a lot cleaner than letting us play in the mud.  But leave it to kids to find ways of getting sand to stick in the most unlikely places of the body.  I tried to wipe with my arm but the spit and the sand combined like concrete layers on my young face.  The car crash scene was my specialty.  I bent down and picked up my little Hot Wheels TM car to do it again.  The sand bank was a magical place.

Our little house was located on the banks of the Yaquina river, 6 miles inland from Newport.  The water was still very salty at this point in the river, as currents reversed directions daily with the tides.  At full tide the river cuts into the crumbling banks held together loosely by tidal grasses, creating a steep drop down to thick tidal mud that could swallow your foot and half your leg.  Just off shore were hundreds of pilings running up and down the river as far as one could see.  These were used to tie off large log boom rafts until they could be taken to the saw mill in Toledo or shipped overseas.  Top that off with having to cross Yaquina Bay Road to get to the river, it was no wonder that was off limits to us kids.  But the sand bank was all the oasis we needed, right in our front yard.

The geography of the river was simple.  Gradual slopes rose up from each side, lined predominantly with the homesteads of loggers and mill workers.  Our home was little more than a 3 room shack with some indoor plumbing in the tiny kitchen.  There was an outhouse complete with a SearsRoebuckTM catalog and an endless armada of flies swirling within.  To get to our house from the Yaquina Bay Road you had to drive up a rutted gravel drive to an area carved out of the slope.  Excavation was often necessary to make a flat place for homes on the slopes of the river.  In this case the excavation for the front yard and home exposed a wonderful golden treasure.  The value of which, would be realized by children and those who needed to keep children busy.  The sand bank began roughly in front of our house and wrapped around our entire yard, maybe 100 feet or more.  It was long and went straight up 4 feet in a fantastic wall of gold, yellows, reds and tans.  The bottom was lined with a ribbon of loose sand that gently pushed out from the bank.  It was a sandbox with no box at all.  It was paradise.

When we were very young the loose sand at the bottom was enough to keep us busy for hours on end.  Mom was young too, and very busy trying to get the house in order while dad worked at the plywood mill.  As we grew older, maybe 6 or 7, my brother, Bob and I found that we could carve into the bank quite easily.  Soon construction of a roadway system started.  Switch backs, intersections and even tunnels were carved all across it’s face.  Other kids had Hot Wheels but were limited to the plastic track with one end attached to a chair.  Our little cars had the sand bank and the ever expanding world we carved for them.

One particular year my brother Bob and I ventured out on a bright spring morning to see something in a hole at the far end of the bank wall.  There was movement in there.  Of course, two young boys were soon daring each other to look inside that hole and see what it was.  Could be a snake.  We weren’t particularly afraid of snakes but the sand bank, once again was in control of our imaginations.  It could be a big constrictor or maybe a rattler’s nest.  The hole was located in a place where the sand was turning to soil so it was a dark swirling combination of gold, brown and black.  The colors and the shadowing movements inside presented a foreboding danger inside. The hole was now a cave.  Little boys cannot resist a cave.  We were going in.  I picked up a stick for poking.  As we approached the hole we could hear sounds.  It was baby birds.  A split second later momma bird swooped by and popped into the hole, delivering the next round of meals to her babies.  We stood there, stunned by this sudden development.  Suddenly our own mom popped out of the house shouting “you boys get away from those babies.  Those are bank swallows and their momma’s busy feeding them.”  Suddenly, as if a switch had been flipped, we were back in the real world again.  Just as suddenly mom vanished back into the house to continue making our tomato soup.

Mom was the referee in our little worlds, stepping out the door to issue warnings, penalties, advice, soup, baths and snippets of love.  Much like the momma sparrow who was also busy providing for the needs of her young.  The front yard, lined with the sand bank, was our nest for those early years.  We were safely perched above the busy river and road below.  Playing in our own worlds as the real one went on about it’s business.  For the most part, mom was just trying to keep us occupied as she went about her day, but little did she know, how fertile this place was for my young imagination.  We were free, as long as our imaginations refrained from dumping sand on the heads of our little sisters, Joanna or Linda.

As I think back on those days I fully realize all of the things we did not have back then.  The house was little more than a shack and we would not have an indoor bathroom until I was nearly 6 years old.  The yard was always cluttered with building materials as a result of the bartering and building my dad would do to improve our little home.  Sadly, our young family was subject to the, all too familiar, turmoil of a marriage that could not last.  As I think about how mom kept us busy, letting us play, I now fully realize all these years later, how valuable this little sliver of gold was to me.  Often my propensity to dream would get me in trouble for “not paying attention to what’s important”.  But in the long run I think it has served me well.  I could escape a confining, limited, world and imagine paths to a better one.  The sand bank provided the perfect place to nurture my creativity.  It was the place my imagination took root and blossomed into a rich world of colors, sounds and words.  As I think about that little red car racing back up those roads for yet another spectacular crash, I now understand, the sand bank is the root of my story telling life. The Sand Bank

Tomatoes, Pears, Corn, and Bursting Fridges.

Hello Fellow Friendly Farmers!

Fall Garden 2013Well, there’s more!!   The corn is finally ready – one of my favorites!  I have picked the ripe tomatoes – had to happen before they split.  Let me know if you want them – they will be stewed into sauce very soon.  Next weekend there should be another crop of tomatoes ready.   Darrel and I had a lovely day in the garden yesterday.  It really is so beautiful right now – like a secret oasis.  There is a lot of produce to be picked, so come quickly! It won’t last long now – the pears need to all be picked, and the corn will get starchy if not picked.   We wait and wait and wait for this time of year, and then it’s all begging to be harvested!  My fridges are ALL full of apples and pears, and can take no more.  If anyone has a fridge they want to get ride of, let me know.

Have fun with this harvest.  It won’t be long, and it will be time to put the garden to rest for the winter.  I’ll post a date for the next work date – it will be weeding and mulching –covering her up.Harvest Bucket

See you soon!


Hello Fellow Friendly Farmers!

IMG_0659We picked today! The bounty is in my garage and needs to be picked up tonight and tomorrow, and Friday morning. I’ll be here (unless I’m walking the dog) – so anytime is good. After work is great. It won’t take you long, and I have plastic bags galore if you forget a basket or bag. Everything is gorgeous. If I happen to be out, just come in the garage side door, and help yourself to the produce.
Important note: the pears are good – they need to be picked before soft, otherwise they rot inside out. Just leave a few at a time on the counter to ripen; refrigerate the rest, and repeat until gone!

There are so many varieties of apples and pears – and they are beautiful this year.
Feel free to wander the garden; the pumpkins are turning orange already, and if you can’t resist – please feel free to take one! Just leave the ones with names on them – the grandkids will be hunting for those later. The corn still needs some time to ripen.
Another garden day will be Sept 14 (from 9a-2pm only) and will be a very easy pot luck for lunch (bring whatever cold serve food you’d like to share). Corn should be ready; we will be cleaning up areas.

Harvest Party is October 12! (time to be announced) and will be a great day – pumpkin picking, big pot luck, face painting, hay rides by Dario for the kids, cider tasting, and whatever else we can think of.

We’ll build fires, and have the barn set up for eating, visiting and playing. More on that later…

See you soon I hope to cart all this food away!