Saturday, December 31, 2011

Buried treasure

Aesop tells a fable about a father who, on his deathbed, tells his sons that there's gold buried in his vineyard. Clever dad is speaking in metaphor: the brothers so vigorously turn over the soil that the vines are well cultivated and produce richly, giving the brothers the gold they sought.

This has not yet happened on our property. However, the blackberry bramble removal project has stumbled on riches. The other day, the tractor driver was cruising along, merrily rendering vines into mulch, when the brush hog gave a mighty WHACKCLANG! and stalled. When he stopped to see what it was...well, this happened about 3:00, and let's look at the police report from the Roseburg News-Review:

Although the impact managed to stall the tractor and dented a blade on the brush hog, the jewelry safe was the clear loser in the conflict. It was chopped into three large pieces and a myriad of shrapnel. It was only with the help of a metal detector that anything was recovered. The tractor driver, who was formerly a deputy with the sheriff's, reckons that the safe was stolen, and the thieves tried to get rid of the evidence by dumping it in a bramble when they discovered they couldn't open it.

As yet, our property has not yielded any gold, real or metaphorical--we've been spending lavishly on it, and we can't keep the small amount of recovered jewelry from this incident, either. However, despite of the aches and pains I've gotten from trying to restore the place, it has yielded some good feelings, and hopefully will continue to do so.

That was the year that was

I like boredom, I really do. Slow and steady, that's the deal--no excitement, no radical changes, just incremental growth. My dislike of suspense is such that I routinely read half of a novel, then skip ahead and read the ending, then finish the book. "Xtreme" is not for me; if you catch me shredding, it is less likely to be on a gnarly downhill than with a cheese grater. That said, 2011 provided me with about as much excitement as I can stand. At the beginning of this year, I had only a small serving of anxiety about just how much and what I would be teaching. As the year ends, I have a have a whole buffet of stuff I'm not sure about, ranging from my parents' health to just what my identity is now that I'm not lecturing to undergrads.

Anyway, let's hope for a new year without unpleasant surprises, and full of gradual, incremental learning. And of course, peace, prosperity, and happiness for all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Flora, explained

Here's another, more revealing photo of Friday's thing:

Our Friday Flora was Rubus discolor, the oh-so-invasive Himalayan Blackberry. Like much of Oregon, we have a blackberry problem. You can make a dent in it with hand tools, but this is a literal pain. If you want to do more damage to the plant than the plant does to you, you need power tools. A Kubota tractor with a Brush Hog will do the trick, but it leaves you with piles of brambles. This being out in the country, you don't put your clippings in the green bin on Tuesday. You burn them.
So goes life. Carbon dioxide and water gets sucked out of the atmosphere and is trapped in a bramble for ten or twenty years; we come along and set it free again. I wonder how long it will remain free.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Flora

(There will be an explanation, anon.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The farm: Before

Here's a panorama of our new place (click on it to make it bigger):
(The breaks in the pan are from moving slightly while I rotated). Going left to right, there's the house. From about 1/4 to 1/2 way across the pan, there's some power lines; these parallel Hwy. 138, and the eastern edge of the property. From about 1/2 way to about 2/3 of the way across the pan, there's a row of oaks; these are the western edge of the property. The house and barn at 2/3 of the way across the pan are our neighbors; the rest of the pan goes along the northern edge of the lot, which includes the oak forest (and the eponymous Oak Creek) but not the hillside.

Here's a view of the house, "before."
Things have been very, very busy this last couple of weeks, and things already look quite different. This can serve as a benchmark.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back from LA/So it begins...

I'm finally back from La-la land; more about the situation there later. Someday I will manage the drive from LA to Roseburg in a leisurely manner. Maybe I'll take some detour along the way--see some of the Tehachapi mountains or the coast range, see the sundial bridge in Redding, visit Castle Crags or Shasta or the Klamath or Rogue River or get some culture in Ashland. But for now, the pattern is A to B, ASAP.

The urgency this time had to do with our new house, which I hadn't seen in a long time. I had to be brought up to date on all the things the Real Doctor had done in my absence, so I could tell the various contractors what to do. Of course, the Real Doctor also had to show me what I had to do.

So (having told various electricians and roofers what to do, as if I knew what was going on) I've labored the last two days on fencing. The existing fence was in terrible shape--rotten posts, tangled and fallen wires, overgrown, etc. It needed to be removed and replaced. The Real Doctor, aided by a couple of local youths, got a start on the project. I spent yesterday with one of the same locals getting the bulk of it done. This involved unclipping the heavy galvanized wire from the fence posts--or pulling it out of the ground where it had fallen and been trampled--or untangling it from a blackberry bramble--and coiling it up. Of course, any kinks or snarls meant that it wouldn't pull onto the coil, so we had to hike along the fence line to find and solve the problem and begin again.

(I'd like to make a brief aside here to sing the praises of fencing pliers. They are a great tool, and I hope whoever invented them was richly rewarded. If nothing else, their inventor has earned a lot of gratitude.)

The property's about a third of a mile long, and the fences have four or five courses of wire, and the wire has a lot of kinks, so it makes for a lot of walking and a lot of wire. This pile, shown here with the reel, is just from one short section of fence.
To take down a fence, you first have to find it. Unfortunately, we have a blackberry problem that's visible from space. So, a big chunk of yesterday and today was spent on just one section of fence that was swallowed by a bramble. Here's local youth George with some of his handiwork, just before we started to remove the wires. The fence disappears into that tunnel, which we had to carve into the mound of blackberries.
Two days of this and we're knackered and scratched like we've been wrasslin' cats. Tomorrow, we bring in the power tools and remove the fence posts.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Flora


From my Mom's garden (which is better than yours), where these things grow like weeds. My Mom calls them afternoon flower, because that's when they bloom, and they're sold as tiger's jaws. Makes sense. The scientific name is Mesembryanthemum tigrina, which means mid-day blooming tiger.