Life on the Tree Farm

The macho logger tree farmer leaves early each morning…too early to let the goats out of their cougar-proof enclosure.  So, after I wake (and have my coffee), I trudge out to their nighttime safehouse and let them out.  Usually, they’re happy to see me and greet me with their typical exuberant banter.  On rainy days, it’s a different story.  Goats don’t like rain.  They don’t like to stand out and about in it any more than you or I would.

So this rainy  morning, I’m greeted with the “it’s raining and we’re not coming out” routine.  I talked to them, opened the enclosure gate and headed back to the house.  All the while, they’re watching me from the dry sleeping barn.

From the porch, I see that they haven’t moved.  At first, I thought it was only Gracie (peeking out) who had stayed behind…but, no, they were all in there.  (They usually stay together no matter where they are.)  Eventually, Gracie led the way and they all sauntered out – headed to the pasture for a day of browsing fresh greens, Douglas Fir and some yummy blackberry vines…

I think I’ll stay in where it’s warm and dry today too…

It’s raining and we don’t like it…

Sharon and Gracie peeking out at the rain from their dry sleeping barn…

 

After a wonderful ten days in Texas with my son and his precious wife and baby daughter, I returned home to the farm in Oregon.  (Via a bumpy, fall-from-the-sky airplane ride I might add.)  It had snowed 5″ here while I was away but with little accumulation.

This morning, I awoke to overcast skies and rain.  By early afternoon, the sun had made an appearance.  The dark clouds continued to hang around for good measure though…

Any day that the SUN is shining during the rainy season here in Oregon is a very good day! I was actually in a rare “cleaning” mood and took advantage of that to polish every piece of furniture in the house. Amazing how much better one feels when you can’t write your name on any surface in the house! 😉

Pondered the age old question of “what to fix for supper” and decided on homemade broccoli-cheese soup with fresh broccoli, carrots, onions, celery and Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese. Coupled with a delicious sourdough bread…

Walked out to visit with my three sweet Boer goats: Sharon, Cindy and Gracie. Like children, they have three distinct personalities. You’ll see what I mean in this brief little video clip.  What I’m saying in the video that I don’t believe you can quite hear (they’re a bit loud!) is that goats have only one set of teeth – on the bottom!  So, if they’re nibbling on you it doesn’t really hurt.

Here’s hoping you’ve had a great day too, wherever you are…

The view from our front porch never ceases to amaze me.  I am reminded, once again, of God’s tender mercies.  They are, indeed, new every morning.  I really wish I could become an “early bird” instead of a “night owl”.  The mornings that I am up early, I am captivated by the scene from the front porch.  It is different every single day.  Some mornings, there is an exquisite pink and blue sky.  Other mornings, the gold blazes from above.  I stand there and worship the Almighty God who created such beauty…

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3: 21-23

I had only been in Oregon for two months when I captured the sunrise below…

The sound of “church bells” float down the goats’ pasture and across the valley below – from my front porch!  One of my Christmas presents this year were two sets of beautiful Corinthian Bells windchimes.  One of them is tuned in the key of “C”.  The other one is tuned in the key of “E”.  Together, they sound like churchbells.  They are larger than most windchimes, so it takes a little more wind to move them.  As I sit at my computer, there is a symphony playing just outside on the front porch…and I love it!  Check out the video below to actually listen…

Another special Christmas gift enables me to visit with my children and grandchildren long distance…an i-Pad equipped with FACETIME!  I listened to my beautiful 3 month old granddaughter “talk” and I loved it.  I talked back to her and she smiled at me.  Amazing!  (I’m flying there in January so I can actually hold her while she talks to me!)  I’ve listened to a piano recital as my grandchildren in Iowa each play for me.  I loved it!  Four of them crowd around the screen and we visit.  Granted, I can’t reach out and hug…it will take a plane and a full day trip for that (I’m flying there in February!).  I talked to my sister of almost 40 years the other day in my pajamas (granted she’s 2 hours ahead of me plus I was a little lazy that day!).

The macho logger tree farmer sat at his desk yesterday afternoon and hammered out his handwritten Christmas letter in less than an hour.  It was one-page, pleasant and to the point.  I edited a couple of grammatical issues and typed it for him.  He addressed the envelopes to his family and put them in the mail this morning.  Amazing.

There’s a blank computer screen in front of me with “Christmas 2011” at the top.  I stare at it but the words don’t come.  The last multiple-page-with-photos Christmas letter I sent was dated 2003.  Eight years?  Life presented too many twists and turns during that span of time.  Each year that rolled faithfully around, I committed to write “the Christmas letter”.  To be honest, I’ve received emails asking me if I’ve removed the sender from my letter list?  No, I wouldn’t do that.  I just didn’t write one.  So now, the stark white screen stares back at me and I am resolute.

So, I think about this past year and take some mental notes…

2011 brought great joy.  My youngest child and his precious wife had their first-born…a beautiful baby girl named Maggie.  I loved her before I met her.  The second I held her and her big blue eyes met mine, there was a bond formed that will last a lifetime…hers and mine.  We will play hide-and-seek and bake cookies when she is old enough.  I will read her lots of stories and sew cute little dresses.  For now, I will hold her, love her and talk baby talk every chance I get…

 

2011 brought deep sadness and grief.  My sister Gerry lost her courageous battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and went home to be with the Lord on October 13, 2011.  I rejoice that she is in Heaven and I will see her again.  I know, in time, the tears will stop…just not yet.  I miss her more than words can say.

2011 provided the opportunity to check one of my heart’s desires off the proverbial “bucket list”: Alaskan Cruise.  Cruising through the Inside Passage, the scenery took my breath away on more than one occasion.  As the ship meandered closely to a cove of ancient glaciers, I was thrilled by the sight of the blue ice and knew that, literally, I was seeing the tips of the iceberg.  When we traveled by vintage train up to the Yukon in a parlor car with a pot-bellied stove, I was seeing history and incredible beauty.  I treasured the views for I knew I might not see them again.

 2011  I became a “goat herder” and the proud owner of six adorable full-blood Boer goats.  I’ve also had to fight the same predators in these Callahan Mountains that the pioneer women fought.  A cougar killed three of my goats – half of my herd.  The macho logger tree farmer came to the rescue and built a cougar-proof enclosure and “sleeping shed” for the goats at night.  Hopefully, we can now rebuild our herd.

 2011  We added to the farm:  a 6 acre pasture, an orchard, a greenhouse, a barn, a fenced in raised-bed garden and a secure nighttime area for the goats with a new sleeping shed for them!

 2011  We’ve enjoyed traveling this year (some together and a few by myself) – three times to Seattle for visits with Jim’s daughter and her family, once to Iowa to visit my daughter and her family, once to Kentucky to visit my older son and his family, once to Chicago to meet my precious Maggie and visit my son and his wife and twice to the South.  Sadly, the last trip South was for my dear sister Gerry’s homegoing service.  I will be forever thankful for the visit I had with my sister Gerry in June…making memories.  In September, we met my daughter and her family at Yosemite National Park where we rented a house in the park and had a wonderful time together.  During the first long weekend of November, we flew to Boston for a visit with Jim’s younger daughter and her husband.  We toured the historical downtown and I saw Boston for the first time.  This sounds like a lot of traveling, but the truth is:  the months between seeing my grandchildren pile up much too quickly and it is much too long between visits.  I miss my children and grandchildren so much!

Hmmm….now, all is have to do is transfer these ideas to the blank white screen, insert a few more family photos, print them off, address all the envelopes, stamp them and mail them!  Thanks for listening.  Maybe I can write this Christmas letter after all…

The painting above by portrait artist, Gaye Frances Willard, is one of my favorites. Every knee shall indeed bow to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ! May you have a blessed Christmas!

The mornings are cold now with fog as thick as pea soup.  It was almost noon today before the fog burned off enough to see the valley below.  It’s time to think about getting things ready for Winter and that is what we’ve been doing.  The cushions on the front porch furniture are now stored in the attic until Spring.  We’ve purchased a propane Coleman camp stove and a small propane heater for the (hopefully rare) times the power goes out here on the mountain.  At least, we could have instant coffee, hot tea and soup.  From the early days of camping, I know how to make stovetop “campfire stew”,  “blackberry buckle”, “biscuits” and “pioneer flapjacks”.  We wouldn’t go hungry.  We’ll also stock up on bottled water since, if power goes out here, there is no water.    Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of patience when the power goes out and not sure what I could do about that. I couldn’t help but admire the handiwork of the patient little spider who created this delicate artwork.  I wondered if the kittens had put their paws in it to create the gaps in it. 

 

 

 

Every Thanksgiving when I was growing up, Mama would make a “Fresh Apple Cake”.  Labor intensive, the three-layer cake included spices, freshly cracked pecans, raisins and a lot of fresh apples.  Although it would have been delicious without any icing, as I recall she made a rich caramel frosting for it.  Needless to say, it was superb and didn’t last long!

A couple of Christmases ago, I discovered this easy, scrumptious apple-raisin cake.  This was our dessert for tonight, cooked in a large cast iron skillet with no icing.   It is so good and brings back apple cake memories of long ago…

Yankee Pot Roast is quickly becoming one of our favorite meals.  True, there is some prep work involved but it’s worth it in the end.  It is a delicious meal!  It’s essentially an entire meal in a Pampered Chef stoneware bowl or dutch oven – whatever you have.   Tonight, I’m serving it with a small tossed salad and hot cornbread muffins.

Every time I prepare this, I’m reminded of the time, years ago, that my older son brought home his precious fiance to meet us.  She grew up in upper New York state and I thought it would be a fun idea to surprise her with Yankee Pot Roast.  The funny thing is that she had mentioned to my son that she was hoping for some good Southern cooking!  In the end, I prepared both and we all fell in love with her…and, thankfully, vice versa.

 

Here they are…the ingredients all assembled and ready to become delicious, tender Yankee Pot Roast.  The only thing missing are 2-3 fresh stalks of celery which I didn’t have.

Yankee Pot Roast

One 3-4 pound beef roast, or larger depending on size of family of course ( this one was a 2 & 1/2 pound eye round roast).  Rump roast is hard to find here but is my preference.

Kosher salt (about 1 tablespoon)

Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper

3-4 fresh carrots (or more if you’re cooking a larger roast)

2-3 fresh stalks of celery (or more for larger roast)

4-5 large Idaho potatoes (or more for a larger family)  (washed, peeled – or not – and cut into quarters)

2 cans Beef Broth or 1 large box of beef broth

1 & 1/2 cups good red wine (This one is a merlot from Columbia-Crest in Washington state.  Reasonably priced and good for this dish.)

1 large onion cut in quarters (the small onions above came from our garden so I used what I had)

4-5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1 tablespoon of Herbs de Provence (if you’re not using fresh herbs also, increase to about 1 & 1/2 or 2 tablespoons)

3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and fresh thyme

2 sprigs of fresh tarragon  (all the fresh herbs came from my garden this morning)

Flour – Just enough to dredge roast really well.

Liberally sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt and Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper all over roast.

Dredge flour on all sides of roast.

Preheat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil…

Saute the vegetables just to give them a little color…

 

Remove the vegetables to a separate bowl and brown the roast on all sides on medium-high heat.

 

Remove the roast and add the beef broth to the hot pan. Stir to “deglaze” the pan or get all the good pan drippings off the bottom of the pan. Add the red wine to the beef broth and stir briefly.

 

Combine the roast, carrots, onions, minced garlice, celery and herbs in stoneware bowl or dutch oven. Pour the beef broth/wine mixture over it. Cover tightly with lid and foil. Bake at 325 degrees for about 2 & 1/2 hours and then add the potatoes cut into quarters. Bake for another 1 hour or until potatoes are tender.

Tender pot roast with fragrant rosemary, thyme and tarragon…

There’s a lot to be said for peace of mind.  Being able to go to sleep at night and not worry that, sometime in the dark of the night, you’ll lose another one of your livestock to a relentless mountain lion.  The macho logger tree farmer is still hard at work on completing the best solution for keeping the remainder of our goat herd safe.  He has built a fenced in (including roof) cage for the goats – adjacent to the chickens’ cage just like it.   He has finished the fenced cage but is now in the process of building a sleeping shed inside the cage.  Plus, the bottom of the front of the cage has to be finished with concrete to keep the cougar from being able to get in there.  In addition, he must pour a concrete slab in front of the shed since the rainy season has begun and that will become a mud hole and contribute to hoof problems – which we want to prevent.  Hopefully, in another week or so, we will be able to start housing the goats in there at night.  Sad to say, there is no 100% guarantee that this will keep this mountain lion away from our goats, but it will definitely be a deterrent!
The U.S.D.A. Wildlife Specialist (tracker) stopped by on his way back from our neighbor’s farm this morning checking on the traps he set last week.  Still no cougar but the tracker feels confident he will catch or kill him…all thanks to the rainy season.  The dogs can track a scent easier now evidently.
Here are a few scenes from the work-in-progress so far and three little interested goats…

Sharon and Samantha…

 

Gracie outside the new sleeping cage…

 

 

View of the goats pasture from inside their sleeping cage…

 

View of the chickens’ and goats’ cages from the side area

 

 

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My Southern Heart...the Stories blog is about my life growing up in the South in the fifties and sixties. It was an amazing time...a time of falling in love, getting married, having a family. A time of history in the making, political unrest, rock and roll. Come along on my life's journey. It's a chronological story, so be sure to start at the beginning. It will make a whole lot more sense that way. Check out: My Southern Heart...the Stories