On the Land

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I_see_you_2012

“I have something to show you.” Out at the vineyard, a crazily windy day, Scott was doing some farming while Sam and I loitered along a section of the road that was nestled down between the hills and out of the wind, playing Sam’s freshly invented rock toss games.

“What?”

“Jack found an owl in the vineyard. I don’t know if it’s still there. I must have walked right by it, but then Jack found it. It was there, it’s big round face peeking at me, and its wings out.”

“Where is it?”

“In the vineyard. I’ll show it to you after I’m done.”

And off he went, leaving me to my racing thoughts. An owl in the vineyard! In daylight. It must be hurt. It has to be hurt. Why didn’t it fly away? What are we going to do? I hope it’s flown away, was some fluke thing, but in the daylight! On the ground.

Oh, was my heart pounding loudly while Sam and I made our way back up the hill, remembering that windy day when we found the flicker. Today, though, despite the excitement, emotionally I felt calm enough, something I didn’t remember feeling back when I headed down the hill toward the birdnet-wrapped flicker. Maybe my skin was toughening up, out here on the farm? Because now, the simple resignation that we’d have to figure out a course of action IF the owl was still there was what propelled my thoughts as we plodded toward the hill’s top. It seemed the practical had replaced the emotional, to some degree.

Back at the camper, I started to look for Oregon Fish and Wildlife on my phone in case the owl was still there, hurrying, hurrying, so I’d be ready when Scott came back. It seemed like forever, but I found it, and wrote it down. Scott had just come in and waited for me to finish. We all got in the car and headed down the vineyard road. Leaving Jack inside, we–Scott, Sam, and myself–got out.

As we stepped into the vineyard, the wind howling around our ears and pulling at my hat, I was rather nervous. But still calm, I had to be; we didn’t even know if the owl was still there, and if it was, we all had to stay quiet. A ruckus would not help anything. As we made our way down the hill, Sam wondered about the owl, and Scott was telling him something, I don’t know what it was because I was thinking too much of what we might find.

We walked some 15 yards or so down a row. “See where that matted grass is?” asked Scott. “That’s where he was.”

For a brief moment I was somewhat relieved. It had flown away! Until I saw a little face one row over to the east peeking under the wire.

A barn owl. And it was still there, with its wings out, in what appeared to be a menacing posture the more we looked at it, but it was not flying anywhere. We stayed for a few moments, me snapping some pictures, trying to see if the wings looked mangled or it looked mangled somewhere else or anything that might help me pin down and understand why that guy was there, and describe the situation to whomever I spoke with next on the phone. I had never been so close to a barn owl, and marveled at that strangeness of this little one’s face; the triangle of white, the  blackness of its eyes. And its beauty. The dark spots on its back and wings jumped in the light, and its gentle buff color was a perfect disguise for the grasses it was now in. We didn’t stay too long, we didn’t want to bother it any more than we had to, and anyway, now we knew: we had a barn owl on the ground that could not fly, and we had to figure out what to do; we weren’t just going to leave it there.

Back in the car I dialed Oregon Fish and Wildlife, but, it being Saturday, reached no-one. So I called the Oregon State Troopers as recommended by OFW and told them my owl story. They took the information, and the gal told me a volunteer would be calling me back sometime. I questioned the experience of the volunteer and how long I’d have to wait and hung-up satisfied knowing it was an Audobon-type rescue person. Now I had to wait for a call back. And there it was. Not the volunteer, but the State Troopers, relaying the number for a more local wildlife rescue spot in Rowena, Rowena Wildlife Clinic, just down the Columbia River a few miles from The Dalles. I called them and got the answering machine, suggesting if I had an injured animal that I try to capture it and put it into a padded cardboard box! My message relayed I would not try to do this, please call back.

For a few minutes after leaving the message, Scott and I thought about how we might capture the owl; I had rounded up an injured duck once, gently securing it in a blanket before placing it in a box and hauling it off to the Audubon Society Wildlife Care Center in Portland, and had done the same thing for a young Scrub Jay, too. But an owl? With talons and sharp beak? No, we needed professionals on this.

Of course Sam was getting hungry now, it was well past lunchtime, and he had forgone breakfast on the drive out to wait for MacDonalds to begin their lunch service (oh, the things that kid will do for a cheese burger), so he and Scott headed to town and left me and Jack on the hill in the camper, waiting for a phone call.

Antsy, I looked up Portland’s Audubon Society number, to talk to SOMEONE and try to figure out more about our owl. And I’m glad I did. The gal there asked me about its wings and if one seemed to be hanging. The wings seemed to be fine, I told her. She told me it could be the owl was simply eating. In the daylight? I asked. She said if an owl doesn’t get enough to eat at night, they’ll hunt in day. I told her we had plenty of rodents on our hill, and I wouldn’t think that would be the case, but what did I know. She asked about any downy plummage. I told her I noticed the chest feathers blowing in the wind, but maybe it was just because it was so windy and not because of them being downy. She said if I could send some pictures it would be a great help. So after hanging up, off I tramped to look for our owl again.

I found him, wings no longer outstretched, but now tucked close to his body.

He was hunkered down under a vine, next to a post. For a minute or so he didn’t even seem to notice me, but then lifted his head. I spoke to him, and saw his eyes readjusting toward me. Just a little bird, it looked like. I also noticed more downy feathers. I got what pictures I could on my iphone, nothing too exciting because I didn’t want to get too close; the grasses were also blowing wildly. Back at the camper I sent one then called Audubon again, to update the goings on of the little owl.

We chatted briefly, I told her about the downy plummage, and then there was an “a-ha” moment. It’s possible, she told me, that this was a fledgling. Barn owls, she said, spend around 2 weeks on the ground after they leave their nest, because they can’t fly. Where would this guy come from, then? I asked her. Do you have an out building where they might nest? she asked. Nope. Well, she said, this guy hopped from somewhere. We hung up, she telling me the expert would get back to me sometime, but that it was a busy day at her center.

So it might be a baby. Where did it come from? We had a number of owl houses in the vineyard, boxes we had put up to help entice owls for rodent patrol. Could it be finally a family had moved in? I looked out the camper window and sure enough, there was an owl box not far from where Scott had found the owl. I headed out again.

What a grand surprise. The base of the pole on which the box is attached was littered with owl pellets. I looked up at the box, the sun in my eyes as I peered toward the hole that faced eastward, out of the wind. And there was something looking back. An owl.

That was it. Our guy was a young barn owl who had left the nest. I was thrilled. We had owls, and what we had stumbled upon was just a part of the life-cycle of this beautiful creature.

I went back to the camper and since I had not heard back from the Rowena Wildlife Rescue Center, I called them again, with hopes of talking to someone more local, probably for more verification of this new discovery. I got through. I chatted with Jean a bit, and I felt comfortable enough with the idea of leaving the owl now, knowing it was a fledgling, but I wanted to be to be as close to 100% sure he was OK to leave. The big thing in my head was to try and see if the wings were ok. I had asked Scott what felt like a million times that day TO HIM if he was CERTAIN both wings were extended when he first saw the owl. “How many times do I have to tell you they were?!” he would exclaim. So I told the Jean about the wings being out the first time, the hunkering down the second time I saw it. We discussed me going back and trying to coax some more defensive behaviour, just to check its wings. She told me other than the spread wings, a barn owl would jump backward and try to show its talons, and possibly screech. She had to go because she was just about to perform surgery, but told me she’d listen for my message with what I found.

I headed out again. The little guy was still hunkered down. I edged closer and closer. No defensive behaviour, but the swinging of his head back and forth and up and down. By this time Sam and Scott had come back and came down the hill to find me. We all sat near the little owl. Scott spoke to it this time, and told him we wouldn’t hurt him, and how glad we were to have him there. Sam didn’t seem to really care one way or another. I got more pictures then headed back to the car to call Rowena with my update. It wasn’t long before Jean called me back, and said what I described sounded perfectly normal.

So there you have it. Tear have finally come to my eyes as I write this and think about that little one, alone out in our vineyard, still within sight of his Mama, but still. In the end, we collected as much information as we could, spoke with experts, and made our decision to leave him on the hill. But oh! such a small, fragile life! Of course I worried all the way back to Portland and then last night about him. We have coyotes near the vineyard and I’m sure fox are around as well. Then I read Great Horned Owls will hunt these little guys. And I’m already nervous about the bird netting we ensconce the vineyard in when the grapes ripen. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed that it’ll all be OK. And smile for the new little owl life and his family, out there on our hill.


[If you ever find a hurt or “misplaced” animal in the wild, click here for some information that can help, from the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, in Mosier, Oregon]

 

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nov2

Oops! Didn’t realize it has been so long since I last posted. I pretty much took some time off to do Mama things (cards, cookies, and cadeaux) and actually got them all done for once, with very minimal duress–a very interesting result from stepping a moment (or in this case, a month) away from the wine biz/start-up/swimming-against-the-current fray. Hmmm.

Anyway, while 2011 is still only yesterday, I’d like to leave you all with a month-by-month visual of the sights and colors of the The Grande Dalles and our Uncultivated Life (note the yellow boat serving as wade pool in front of our Campeau) out in the wilds of the wine world.

    

January: We released our wines at the rustically swank James John Cafe in North Portland. Chef Owners Suzanne Bozarth and Aaron Solley would accompany us to New York in March, to the James Beard House.

February: It’s a quiet time out on the hill, but still much for little vineyard gnomes to discover.

March: “Columbia Valley Terroir” unveils itself at the James Beard House in NYC: featuring our wines and sumptuous regional Northwest Solley and Bozart fare.

  

April: A slow start, but the land starts to warm and the greening of the hill begins.

May: Guerilla roadside Wine Stand at the Old Garage during Memorial Day Weekend in the Hood (Hood River). Best line of the weekend asked by someone who drove in, got out, and then quickly left after asking: “Is this legal?”

  

June: Wine in hand, an evening walk out on the land. Sam! Get out of Dave’s wheat!

July: Fire season. Thankfully this was not on our property, but still causing much damage to someone else’s across the way. Reminded us of the 2009 range fire that headed straight toward us, stopping three rows in our vineyard. As the story goes, the Old Coot was the only person who went in our vineyard to fight it. Still need to thank him.

  

August: Wasco County Fair! Aptly themed, “Barn in the USA.” For the second year we sponsored a Demolition Derby car. Yeah! Hot day out there in South County in that fairground valley. Whew!

September: Still warm out on the land. In this picture, because we didn’t quite make it to our Deschutes River swim spot, the little boat had to do.

  

October: Harvest. We made it. And we made it into Google Earth’s One World Many Stories campaign. The only wine story IN THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY to do so.

November: A seasonal quiet begins its descent, along with some early snow.

December: While the last hues of Fall in the Columbia Gorge peep through the mist, our wines are beginning to shine in New York City, and at some Michelin-starred restaurants to boot! Where exactly, you ask? Annisa on Barrow Street. Blue Hill NYC on Washington Place. Dovetail on West 77th Street. Henry’s on Broadway. Penn Wine and Spirits at Penn Station. First & Vine on First Ave. Yippy skippy!

As thankful as I am for our accomplishments in 2011, there are still many miles to go before we can sleep. Many miles. So, while I look forward to 2012 and all the exciting things we have planned, I wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year and from time-t0-time, to step off the beaten path, for it is what often makes all the difference.

~ stephanie

 

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After the doom and gloom of the other day’s HIT post, a little color might be a welcomed addition. These images are also on our Facebook Page, in 2011 October Colors in a Western Vineyard and Place album, but I don’t trust the links FB provides, so they’re here, too — enjoy —

A Little Bit of Upstate NY for More Harvest Cheer

Tempranillo Showing Its Autumn Color

North Side Grey Rabbitbrush*

Acres and Acres of Vines Under Net

Blueberry Dan's Bounty, Grown on Our Hill's North Side

Light Makes it Through An Uneasy Harvest Evening Sky

Cabernet Sauvignon Kept Safe from Pesky Birds

*Many thanks to Andy Plymale, for pointing out my error — I thought the yellow-flowered plant was some type of sagebrush, but Andy told me it’s Grey Rabbitbrush, a very good native plant to have on the land, I found out. Thanks again, Andy!

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Yesterday I held a flicker in my hand, feeling its chest heave and its little heart beat, right there on my skin. Speaking to it only increased its agitation, so I stopped, and waited for Scott to return with Sam–who was having a tearful day, scared by all the grasshoppers and wanting to go home as soon as we had arrived–and something to help extricate the poor bird from the netting it was caught in.

When I saw Scott kneeling on the hillside, at the end of a net-ensconsed row, I figured he was working on a drip tube, a leak or something. Then I saw it was something under the net, and he called me to come down, asking, “Do you have any cutting thing in your bag? A knife or something?”  I didn’t.  “What’s caught?” I was fearful of hearing it was a hawk, or worse, our resident kestrel. “It’s one of those long-beaked birds you like.” “A flicker?” “Yeah, a flicker.” Just as bad, I thought. A flicker.

Scared beyond all get out of what I might see when I got there, there it soon was, wild-eyed in Scott’s grip, as he tried unsuccessfully to release it. He showed me where the one wing had netting stuck tight to it, and our plan was to cut it out.

I’m alone on that steep hillside with the bird now, the sun peeking past the billowy white clouds, the air warm and gently scented with sagebrush and dried grasses, the start of Fall. The ground feels soft under my knees as I try  to gently, yet firmly, hold this fearful feathered creature. I use my fingers and create a stronger vise-like position near its neck area, so the bird’s head becomes a cork and the rest of the body can’t get through, and am more careful with the wings and body, not knowing what damage might be there–its right wing greatly entangled in the green webbing. I look into its dark red eyes and hope and hope and hope that all will be well.

Not knowing how long it has been tangled, it is still feisty, and strangely calm. While I wait for Scott, I undo its big, leathery clawed left foot. Mistake! For as soon as I get that free, the wiggle becomes more determined. And it is soon caught up again. I decide to just wait.

I hear voices, and look up the hill. Soon they appear at the top, and down the hillside Scott comes, carrying Sam so the grasshoppers don’t get him, I suppose. They get to us, and Scott tells me, the only thing he found to cut with was clippers, no knife. We’ll make it work. “Hi little birdie.” Sam, now three, speaks to the flicker. We tell him matter of factly how this little guy got caught in the netting, and now we’re doing our best to get him out.

I have to hold the bird now in one hand, so Scott can get to that leg that had become re-entangled. Done. Now all that’s left is the right wing, and now with the bird almost out, the netting comes easily away. The flicker is free.

Please excuse me while tears come to my eyes now as I write; in the moment there was no time to be emotional, it was simply holding that bird and wondering what would it be able to do once it was released?

I jump up because the flicker obviously senses its recent detanglement, its fight now stronger than ever to leave my hands. “Don’t toss it,” Scott tells me, as he watches me lift the bird while I steady myself on the hill. “I’m not,” I tell him. “I’m taking it away from the netting.”

I walk the few steps across that 30+ grade, to what we call the north side, and set the bird down. And just as soon as my hands move away, it departs. Shaky, but flying, wings broad and nothing visibly damaged, it jumps right into the air, and disappears over the contour of our hill. Why it decides to turn back toward the vineyard, we will never know. “Oh, please, please, please, do not land or drop down there,” I think. I share my concern with Scott, who simply says, “We did what we could to help it, there’s nothing more we can do.”

As we walk back up the hill, I realize there is something more I can do: somewhere, somehow, get a tougher skin.

 

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This is what I was thinking about Oregon Trail Pioneers right here at our usual Deschutes River swim spot, almost at the point of where it flows into the Columbia River —where we cool ourselves down when it’s hot out at the vineyard. After another harrowing river crossing* for these people here on the Deschutes, the long-awaited fertile land is now within a shortened reach, but with still a long way to go:

OMG, these people made it all the way here are to Oregon Territory, but it’s not the verdant valleys they see, it’s these basalt-y, dried out autumn golden grassy hills that are presently Wasco County, and on the other side of the river, in Washington State, Klickitat County. “We came here for THIS?” I know my thoughts would be along those lines, cursing the man who brought me here—feigning no free will, of course—and wondering, was it because we took a wrong turn and he didn’t want to ask for directions that we’re in this place? But inwardly I’d be enjoying my secret excitement of adventure and possibility, because that’s just how I am. Terrible, I know, I’ll work on it.

Maybe those settlers cooled themselves right here at the mouth of the Columbia, where the rushing waters and its temperature rise and fall with Mt. Hood’s snow-melt, the air scented with the sweetness of sage brush cooking in the heat. Yup, right here along the banks, I decide, where my small family and I now frolic, Sam dipping in and out of the pools with his long, yellow “noodle,” that long floaty tube you imagine geriatrics using for a pool work-out. It’s right here that those people washed their clothes or dipped their feet, set their fires, and wondered again: “We came here for this?”

“Oh, please, let me make it right with a good dinner,” the men may have thought, as I watch modern-day fishermen cast a line out into the waters, the Chinooks still running fast but not so plenty as days gone by. And in the morning, the settlers would continue on, wondering, wondering, are we almost there?

Along they’d go, another 15 mile trek down to The Dalles, maybe on the basalt lip running along the river where their trail is still visible, or maybe fanned out across the landscape, passing right by the base of our vineyard. But once at The Dalles, they have to decide two things (if they’re late comers to the Trail) in order to circumnavigate Mt. Hood: continue on over the treacheries of a late Fall Cascade Mountain trail, or put it all on a raft and navigate the wilds of the Columbia. So close, so close. Yet no matter which curtain they picked, I can’t imagine they’re NOT thinking, where is the green we’ve been promised? Where are those fertile valleys? And stands of timber? And quiet spots of respite, where we might eek out a new life?

Those valleys would be there, obviously. And only the toughest would reach them. As I watch a small school of fry try to hide in the reeds as I wade past, I look out and think, “We are so close, so close. And yes, Stephanie, we came here for this.”

*Years later around this very spot where I tool around in the water wondering all this, a Heritage Marker would be placed, one I have yet to see, reading: “The Oregon Trail crossed the hazardous Deschutes River at this point by floating the prairie schooners and swimming the livestock. An island at the river mouth was often utilized when the water was high and the ford dangerous. Pioneer women and children were frequently ferried across the stream by Native canoe men who made the passage in exchange for bright colored shirts and other trade goods.”

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There’s silence over the vineyard. Last weekend this wasn’t so. Starlings and Brewer’s Blackbirds had gathered, maybe a good 100 or so, in anticipation of our changing grapes, chippering and chirping in excitement of their imminent gorging of the grapes–or so they thought. They’d rise up as Jack ran the rows, looking like little winged muffins being tossed into the sky, so sudden was their lift. Then those plump little beasties would lazily land only a few rows away, where they remained until Jack or one of us sent them springing upward again. But now, nothing.

We started at the west end, where the sangiovese and tempranillo were undergoing veraison. A few days later, the entire vineyard was under netting.

The vineyard is now ensconced in bird netting, and a new green hue covers the land.

We saw one of our kestrel friends, a male, out watching the activity (literally) unfold. I ducked behind a vine, in hopes I’d see him in action, for that was why we even put in those kestrel houses, so these little falcons would swoop and maybe even swallow down some song birds, as message to others to “Stay out.” Well, he wasn’t that interested, even when it looked like those birds landed right under his roost. Geez!

Hey Guy! Get to Work!

 

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This year marks our fifth year anniversary since planting the vineyard. If you have been reading our Diary of a Start-Up Winemaker series on The Daily Meal, you will have come across this — I posted one year each day last week. If you have not, it’s all right here for your reading enjoyment. Hold on, here we go.

2011 marks the fifth anniversary of our little vineyard on the frontier. It’s been five l-o-n-g years since we took the plunge and transformed a steep and distinct hillside out in the middle of wild, windy Oregon wheat country into a vineyard going on its 4th vintage, to make wine like no other from only the grapes we grow. Can that be right? We planted in 2006; at the end of our third growing year in 2008 we had our first harvest; then 2009, 2010, and holding our breath for 2011, which is our 6th growing year. Yes. This will be, if all goes well, our 4th harvest.

We thought you might enjoy a tiny peek in on those five years, for what happened along the way—to us and to our land—is as much a part of the wine as the grapes we make it from.

2006 : The Planting, and the Big Freeze

After months of preparation that began pretty much the day after we stepped off the plane in October, 2005, from Scott’s 2-year work assignment in Ireland, we planted The Grande Dalles vineyard. We had already found water and dug the well in 2005, so that was off our to-do list. But early 2006 was busy, busy, busy, as we laid out the vineyard, walking that hillside and holding up markers, person unseen because the terrain was so curved in areas.

Scott put in weather stations, a deer fence went in, we had a surveyor out to help us set rows evenly, 3-phase electricity was brought in from miles away, and Scott placed numerous orders for the supplies we would need for the vineyard, the grapes not the least of it. The bigger things we collected were drip line, wire, end posts, and center posts, and between Scott’s squabbling with our vineyard manager over inches of ground (Scott’s a farmer at heart, and does not like to waste a bit of land) we decided on the vineyard’s boundaries. In April 2006 the end posts were set, Scott holding every single one of them as they were tamped 5 feet into the earth on a terribly cold and blustery day.

If you want to get a decent first growing year, you have to plant as early as you can, and every day you lose is every day less for the plants. The big pressure for us was getting water to the top of our hill before the plants arrived. We sort-of made that deadline, and the plants arrived. But to make absolute sure water could successfully reach our hilltop again and again meant we had to stage all 17,000 starts for a week or so, securing them behind chicken wire so local deer couldn’t feast. As soon as we knew we could depend on bringing water up a good 400 feet from the well down in the valley below, we were ready to plant, and plant we did, in early June, 2006.

It was a joyous time, for the most part, as we placed all our hopes and dreams into that hillside. But Stephanie was beginning her slip away, as relationships and characters, and all the weeding we did by hand, began to take their toll. And by December, all our jubilation was soon dashed when we got the news that our vineyard was most likely dead from that unexpected freeze in October. To add to that, our then vineyard manager, our one and only with no ulterior motives who believed in us, had emergency open-heart surgery. It was around Christmas, and we thought we had lost both of them, Leroy, and the vineyard. What would 2007 hold? Read the rest of this entry »

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I posted  a few images on our The Grande Dalles FaceBook page,  from our latest weekend at the vineyard, and from a brief exchange with a “Fan,” the word “reverence” came on the screen. I had written it. A big word, I know, but that’s the only one I can come up with when I am out on our land.

It’s funny, because as I get closer to The Dalles on the cruise through The Gorge, I look for the classic rock station, the one our very interesting helper Richard listens to: ZZ Top, old U2, Pink Floyd…an eclectic mix of nostalgia (for me), and down the highway, and even up into the windy, hilly road to our vineyard, it feels right. Once I get to the gate, the deer-gate entrance with the sign “Please Close Gate Behind You” I let the music drift out of the car door as I pull into the turnout, put us in neutral so I can open the gate, and then again so I can close it behind us. Back in the car I do turn the music down; the windows now are up because of the dust–they may have been up for some time if we needed air conditioning on the drive–but the reverence has begun; I need some quiet as I survey the vine rows along our vineyard road. Scott’s usually waiting for us at the top of the hill, for his boy, and the quieted party in our car comes to an end.

In the evening we will have drinks, as civilized people in the wilds will do, and sometimes the music will again return to the landscape, me sitting in the car with the doors open as music cascades down the hill and outward in the fading sunlight.

But for almost the whole time we are there, there is no music, no man-made sounds other than that from the ritual tractor ride of father and son, the occasional car zipping down the road far below, or the lone plane droning above the wide, glorious land. It is the three of us (avec chien) alone under the sky, fully present in what the land gives us. And in those moments of stillness, like when I step outside in the middle of the night and surprise a hunting owl as it alights from its perch on the camper and flies silently overhead, its shape in stark contrast to the bright of the moon; or when I smell the sweet of the earth or hear the rustle of the growing wheat or that precious meadow lark song; when we all watch the kestrel hunt in the early morn before the heat reaches us, or as I smile at our vines who wave at me in the wind, Mt. Hood forever stoic out in front, the only music in my ears is that of reverence. Pure, unadulterated reverence.

 

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Came around the bend outside of The Dalles on Saturday and this is what I saw:

A range fire in someone’s wheat field, just outside town. Wheat harvest was under way, and Scott had called me on the drive, to tell me of the fire that flared up, and how Dave, the gentleman who farms the rest of our property left with his crew to help fight it. He asked Scott to stay behind, in the event there could be a flare up on our land; I guess hot machinery can get a flame going.

In town, where Sam and I stop to pick up sandwiches for lunch, we saw this:

On our way to the vineyard we had to pull over to let the Hood River Brush Engine go by, the neighboring town coming now to fight the blaze. Sam wanted to go see the fire, but I told him there’s no need for Looky-Loos, and anyway, it’s not safe, and best to be out of the way so the men and women fighting the fire can do their work.

Once at the vineyard, the smoke had greatly subsided; Scott told me he had seen the flames dancing in the distance, some few miles away, and when Dave and crew came back, he told us the fire was 20 ft. high, and had done a good 100 acres of damage before being contained.

In the morning, I snapped this picture from our camper window, where you can see the burn area:

That same morning we also were privy to “our” kestrels hunting, and caught a few images (click on them to make them bigger — sorry if they take longer to load):

And Dave’s John Deere combine. When we saw that thing sitting on our land, it was like a lunar space machine had landed, so foreign is that to us, out there, but not foreign at all to the history of the area.  This shot is of Dave, with Scott and Sam, heading off for an evening run; Dave was kind enough to offer Sam a ride, and after we came back from our Deschutes River outing, and had our pizza dinner, he was still at work. It was a beautiful evening.

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Looking eastward on north fence line/photo location: Hay Ranches, on shared easement

When we bought our property, we put in an 8-foot deer fence to encircle our parcel of 160 acres; done as a joint project with our neighbor, this same fence contains his adjoining 160, making what’s supposed to be a quiet deer-free “preserve” of 320 acres. Sometimes this has not been so, as we’ve had deer in a few times. The first time was when we first put the fence up, a small band became enclosed, so diverse and large was the area, they simply got stuck in. Then there have been some “how did they get in here?” moments, when we’ve found an errant deer wandering around. Thankfully, at every time, we’ve been able to get them out unharmed, still unsure of how they got in, although we have our suspicions (gate left opened overnight, for example). But to make sure the fence was not compromised in a more remote locale that gave them opportunity for entry, I went out walking it with Jack the dog this past weekend.

Mt. Hood behind the wheat / photo location: Hay Ranches, from shared easement

We did the North parcel on Saturday, the south parcel on Sunday. And weren’t both days glorious. Not too hot, not too windy. Mt. Hood pretty much in full view.  A lot of stop-and-scan, stop-and-scan action, keeping an eye out for any bounding creature rustled up out of the high wheat, or ears pricked in our direction. With the wind blowing our scent away, and quieting our crunching footsteps, we did manage to get a good 8-10 feet from a doe grazing OUTSIDE the fence. Best doe-y eyed glance I’d ever seen so close, when she was finally on to us, and then she bounced away.

Not the deer we snuck up on, but one we startled

Turns out the fence is just fine, and other than a number of dig-throughs/unders from fox or coyotes or badgers or whatever else might be coming on in, there were not places an unprovoked deer might. Jack had one tick on him rendered harmless by his tick treatment; I thought I might get some, walking through the tall grasses, arms raised in a tick-like surrender, but nothing, whew! I have to do that walk around more often. It’s quite a workout, and the scenery is crazy beautiful.

Here’s a link to more of the weekend’s pictures I popped onto Facebook.

 

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