Howard Huff walks past our mailbox every day at . He strolls by at a firm pace, heading towards
I still feel unsettled. This place we call home is beautiful. Every morning I open the sliding glass door and step onto the deck to breath in the day. On some mornings I can see hot air balloons hovering over the western edge of the Willamette Valley, drifting slowly along unfelt currents of air. They head south, beyond the trees and vanish from view. I listen. In the distance I can hear the constant droning of tractors. I can hear a rooster crowing. Sometimes a dog will bark at something that only he can sense. I also hear the sound of gnawing and chewing under the deck. Squirrels are raiding our filbert orchard, helping themselves to our nuts. The crawlspace under our deck seems to be a favorite nut cache. I'm losing $$$ every day as these pirates plunder our trees. I see Steller's Jays beating hasty retreats into the fir trees with fat, cream colored nuts secure in their beaks. Vermin! They're robbing us blind! This goes on every morning.
After I'm done cursing the chipmunks, squirrels, and birds, I walk around the garden to see how things are growing, dead-head flowers, and just take in the serenity of my surroundings. I try to block out the raiding that is going on downslope. I still think about my old house and my old garden every day, but I've started to make this place my own. I planted a tomato plant, some rosemary, mint, sage, thyme, oregano, basil and chives. The rest of the garden has been revealing itself to me over the past couple of months. We've got a lot of purple cone flowers, day lilies, hydrangeas, lavender, heather, lupine, and blackberries. The blackberries are big and juicy right now. Time for pie!
Photo: Filbert a.k.a hazelnut orchard in the late summer.
The serenity of the orchard is amazing. There are hundreds of trees planted in perfectly straight columns. You step inside the rows and the light vanishes, blocked by millions of leaves, eagerly soaking up the sun's warmth. The air is cool and still under the trees. Occasionally a breeze will stir the canopy above, making the leaves whisper. Clouds of red earth muffle the sound of my shoes as I walk down one of the colonnades. The six acres of trees are young; at most, they are 15 years old. Most are healthy, only a couple have succumbed to Eastern Filbert Blight, a disease that is wiping out orchards in the area. The nuts are also prone to filbert worms. I'm not happy with the sprays that are used to keep the worms away. I'm not sure what will happen this year. The squirrels are trying to make sure that we don't see any nuts. What to do about the nut thieves?? Some say shoot them. Others say poison them. Trapping and drowning has also been suggested. Praying to St. Germaine for divine intervention was offered, too. This is an age-old battle that has just begun for us. Maybe I'll just rip out the trees and let them find other crops to destroy, like wine grapes. I'd miss the forest, but this battle is not for me.
Photo: Tractor died. Got it fixed after we brought in a professional.
My neighbors are hard at work. Grapes take a lot of care if they're going to produce some magnificent wines. I can feel the anticipation building as fruit slowly swells, gently hanging from the vines, waiting for the right moment when they will be picked, packed, crushed, and coaxed into wine. Two tons of grapes per acres. That's the norm around here. Some farm twice that, but the flavors aren't as concentrated. People don’t just discuss grape varietals around here, they talk about clones and root stock. "That's a 777 on sitting on a Jasper Johns." "This block is planted with RU-186's." I have no idea what the difference is between the clones, but I like the end results. And if they go well with my cheese, I'll choose my favorites later.