Thursday, January 22, 2009

lots of moisture

We had a LOT of snow and a LOT of rain following, and there was some major flooding around here. It was interesting to see what happened to our land because this was pretty much a worst case scenario. There were small lakes in certain areas, particularly around the pond. I was concerned about my trees and blueberries because I didn't want them partially submerged and flooded. It turned out OK, the water spread across and did not flood the area where I planted, except for on blueberry bush. However, in hindsight I probably should have planted a bit further away from the pond. I will have to ask the local nursery where I bought the stuff if it is possible to move things around, probably not. There was also an area out in the lawn that flooded. I also discovered that if you don't mark the gravel driveway, you can't tell where it is when it snows, and you end up snow plowing off of the road and when you drive over the pasture it digs holes and ruins things.

Now that it is somewhat melting off (we've had snow on the groudn for over a month), the grass is STILL green underneath, and the weeds are thriving. Amazing!

So, there is always something to learn, we learned a lot through all of that weather.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I went outside about 3:30 AM this morning and there were at least 3 owls around, hooting to each other. It was too dark to see them but the sound was unmistakable. One was in the large cottonwood tree in the yard. It was extremely foggy and a slight mist was falling, and the grass is finally starting to show through all the snow.

I had to fix the compost again - my solution is NOT working. I have some cinder blocks set up with chicken wire over them. Some animal tore it up and spread it all over the place; I don't think it was the dog. However, the dog got in on the action for sure. I'm going to look into using lime to make the compost less palatable.

Speaking of the dog, he constantly comes up and stares in the window and whines and scratches at the glass and the side of the house. He is a great dog, but he is having trouble realizing that he is a dog. He is also VERY bad with other animals, in particular our cat won't come around any more. So I am telling him BAD DOG and taking him by the collar and chaining him up for a time whenever he does this to train him NOT to do this any more.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

dance (a fall poem)

from the bare branch it buds
drawing strength it grows
with many siblings
consumes sap and light
and mystery and wonder
takes it shape
green it works and gives
growing old
glorious it shines

and in one final moment
lets loose
swirls and sways on the wind
a single brief ecstatic dance

with its siblings
carpets the mountain path in splendor
and returns to the dirt.


I realize I am doing this later, but I am sitting here with time and thinking about it. Fall is truly truly glorious here. The mixture of the conifers all green with the orange/yellow/fading green leaves with some flashes of red is a riotous orgy of color. It goes up the mountain behind the house, and lasts no longer than a very few weeks. I remember the sea of yellow on the ground beneath a bare maple; mmmmmm! It was a time for me to plant some apple trees and berry bushes. I planted 3 spartan apple trees, 3 Jonagolds, 3 fujis, 1 pear, and 9 blueberry bushes. I am going to move the strawberries over to the pasture as well. I can imagine that deer and other things are going to fight me for those apples, I will have to figure that out. In the midst of many other problems at that time, I remember planting trees as a very bold statement; I am of the belief that somehow I will stay in the place. It will be a miracle, but when these trees bear their fruit I will see it; I will eat of it.

I also planted some daffodils and tulips around the ancient apple trees. I had mixed feelings about this; I love these kinds of flowers like I love Hershey's chocolate. It is not the best chocolate, it is kind of artificial, you certainly can't live on it, but it sure is good really, isn't it?

In the midst of this, I discovered that the pasture down by the 'pond', the soil is great for digging, it has almost no rocks. The dirt up closer to the house in the same pasture has so many rocks that you might as well start a gravel pit; it takes FOREVER to dig the smallest trench. The problem is, clearly if there is an excess of water it will pool down by the pond near the good soil. I will have to see how my trees do, because it may have been a mistake but I planted them down there. Now it is has snowed and snowed and snowed and then warmed up and monsoon season hit, I fear that whole area is going to be a lake. I am told that this weather is extremely unusual, so I couldn't really have foreseen what was going to happen even if I were and old-timer. Now I know what is possible.


silent wild fury
descends from deep heights
quiet I stand
made of secrets
woven of desire fear music stories
almost blind
wonder at the majestic firs
pressed down with white
so weary of the weight I bear
a slight wind
powder cascades
from some high branch
a silent explosion
a salty tear
born of cold, wonder, secret pain
born of mystery like the stars
washes its path down my whitened face

I move on through the thick deep silence

garden books

I was browsing through a used book store, and I looked through a lot of gardening type books. They are either country kitsch books, how to plant this or that books, or native gardening type books. I'm sure I missed some categories. The point is, the category of book I was looking for didn't seem to exist - a book by a guy who is carving out a relationship, indeed a romance, with his land. It isn't that I don't want to know how to do this or that, but that is all mechanics. If you love the place, you are hungry for mechanics, that is true.If you love the place, you love what is indigenous to it; that IS the place.

But I want to extract the poetry, the music, the dance, the color, the delight from the land. This is different than conforming it to my will. I am part of this land, part of this place. I have come lately and will be here for only a blip of time. I work carefully, I touch it lightly, I walk with worship and see the hand of the God who is real in what is here. There are many and very great challenges, and I realize that this land is much stronger and much greater than I am. I lack knowledge, I lack wisdom, and I lack love, for THIS land, the land where I am. In many cases, this land ends up whipping my butt. I do complain!

However, this does not mean my LOVE for the place, my appreciation of the incredible beauty of the place, the history of it, has diminished in the least. Nor does it mean I demean myself in light of my failures here; I came knowing that I have very much to learn, very much to adapt to. I am in a way a stranger here, and I am in the process of being changed. It is painful and I very much love it, I really do.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Winter 2008

It has been snowing off and on for 3 weeks! You can see more pictures here:


The amazing thing is, it never seems to melt. It is incredibly beautiful, and for the unprepared like me, quite a hassle. I have the wrong car, the wrong shovel, no tire chains, and I need a snow plough. We have wonderful friends down the road with an ATV with a small snow plough, and he has come down a few times to plough, which was a great mercy. The pattern has been, it gets cold, in some cases into the single digits, and snows perhaps a little. Then, it warms up, and glazes to a white snow-like icy shell. This is difficult to trudge through. I did get a pair of snowshoes, but in the ice even they just break through the ice shell. However, it gets cold again and snows over the top of it. Underneath it all it starts to glaciate - a dense sort of bluish snow pack forms. It has been has high as 3 feet of snow with drifts even higher. I waffle between loving it and hating it; it is very beautiful and it produces a great deal of work.

One problem is that you can't really tell where our driveway path is, so the plowed path actually goes through the pasture at one point, so when we were in a warmer spot, we have dug deep trenches through the pasture. The van got very stuck in this; we had other friends come and help pull us out of that. You cannot get by around here without help. Also, the snow on the roof of our house tore off part of our gutters on the back as it was melting and sliding off.

I also wonder what this is going to do to our new apple trees and blueberries, and the strawberries. I really don't know! We'll see. I am starting to wonder if this snow is really going to melt completely before the spring.

I climbed up the mountain, and the snow is thick through the trail going up. It is thinner on the steep sides, and amazingly, the sword ferns are still green! There are a couple of grand firs up there, and the view from the plateau where the little cabin is partially built was spectacular. I was up there when it was a bracing 9 degrees, and clear. You could see the jagged snowcap peaks of the cascades against a spectacular blue sky with a sea of forest below; this is the kind of thing that makes you proud to be alive.

Here are some things I've learned. Even when it is a bit warmer than freezing according to the thermometer, it still snows, and still collects on the existing snow. If you let it collect on anything, it gets very heavy and can damage it as it melts. This is even more true if it actually gets warm enough to rain on the snow. As long as the snow is powder, it is much easier to deal with; if you let it melt a bit, it is 10 times heavier and much more difficult to work with. I need some sort of markers where the road is so we don't destroy the pasture again; I don't look forward to dealing with it. When it is very cold, maybe 12 degrees or below, the snow doesn't really stick to things; the trees look sparser, for example. When it gets a bit warmer, in the 20s and up, it sticks more and seems wetter. There is nothing more aerobic than shoveling lots of wet snow. It is important to keep little paths clear to things you need, like the woodshed. I need a better car for this, I am looking at a AWD subaru.

For all the work, I have really loved the snow and I have a wistfulness about seeing winter pass. The Grand Fir is magnificent when laden with snow; its flat systems of needles catch it beautifully. The conifers all get very weighted down with snow looking much thinner than their usual selves, until a slight puff of wind starts a small avalanche of powder and there is a cascade in the forest of white. The deciduous trees are also beautiful in the snow, with a spider web of white all through. You can't believe that the snow could catch and balance on the tiny surfaces of the systems of even the smallest branches, just balanced there. The topography of the mountain is much clearer somehow with the snow; I am examining it for places to do certain things. I would like to plant more conifers up there, it was clear cut about 20 years ago. Damn them, really, there are some large stumps here and there, it looks like there were some excellent western redcedars about. There is nothing like the quiet of it all, especially while it is snowing; but in the work of battling the elements, you have to remember to stop, listen, and enjoy the quiet; it is easy to forget that this is a place of uncommon splendor. All in all it adds to my romance with this place; every season has its charm.