The Meadowlark

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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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If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know there’s nothing better for me than hearing the Western Meadowlark’s song punctuate the still out on our hill. Happy Spring to all of you.



I know, reminds many of a Bob Dillon song, but I wasn’t thinking of that when we were out at our vineyard this past weekend. Instead, my title is based on the more literal facts: the tangle of our vineyard against that blue sky. It was a stunning blue, as you can see, and there was a sweet growing smell of Spring in the air, along with numerous Meadowlark calls, the one sitting in the slight bowl of our vineyard off to the east was so shrill and distinct, answering a number of other calls blowing in from afar.

So, what’s the tangle about? A few things. One, we haven’t pruned yet, so you have the tangle of all the old canes. The other is from all the dried weed called Mare’s Tail Scott’s now fighting.

Dried Mare's Tail, an obnoxious weed

Funny this weed didn’t show up early on back in the day, almost six years ago now, when we first planted our vineyard on that wheat ground. No, THOSE monstrous weeds were Russian Thistle, Prickly Lettuce, and, shoot, the last one escapes me — it’s a total ground cover, creeper-like thing, supposedly people eat it when it’s young. I’ll remember. Anyway. I’ve mentioned before, but in case you don’t realize, we purchased one MESS of a vineyard site as far as weeds are concerned. We had no idea that all these monsters lay in store, and how they’d materialize after the ground was no longer soaked in the big weed sprays of the commercial wheat farmer. Or maybe in our case, thankfully, the ground wasn’t all that sterilized, as all these weeds lay in wait. Pig Weed. That’s the name I forgot. Anyhoo…We’ve been fighting the slow fight, and thankfully, the native clump grass we’ve planted is now starting to choke out many of the weeds.

Native Clump Grass

Native Clump Grass

Fingers crossed.

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For me, if I don’t hear a meadowlark out at the vineyard, it’s not complete. I don’t know why that song has come to signify the “being” of me there, but it has. Thankfully I hear one every time. And then I wonder, is it the same one? Do we have a resident meadowlark like our resident kestrels?

We were at the farm just the other day, Wednesday. Scott was showing around a city-slicker NYC friend, to whom I had loaned a fleece and hat because she had left NY in balmy weather, only to find a spring Oregon chill. Sam and I were checking for owl poop, I mean, pellets, under the owl houses that stand some 10? 12? feet above the trellis poles, attached to them by long screws and bolts. Sam carefully grabbing onto the vines as he hauled his growing little legs over the lower wire. Scott noticed and called out, “Make sure he doesn’t knock off any buds,” which I was already doing, of course, imagining where next year’s fruit canes might come from.

We headed toward the boxy house, white markings along its face, dropped by birds surveying from its roof. I really wanted to find a pellet. Wanted to find the little mass and pull it open with a vine’s cut spear that still dotted the rows from this year’s pruning, and see the bones and detritus that it might contain, stuff you learn in 10th grade biology, or from your crazy bird-mother… But there were none to be found. Only a quick rustling of feathers as we approached, and then a blur of wings as it left its hole. Was it an owl? (It would have to be a small one.) Was it a kestrel taking over a larger home? (The kestrel homes are more an rectangular upright, this was a horizontal positioning.) I don’t which bird it was, but I only knew it was there, and it left in a hurry, with Sam trying his best to keep upright, his face all rosy from the cold, and wind, stepping over the wire, and not far away  atop another pole, the meadowlark let loose.

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