The Last Homestead: Sept. 8

First evening email to Jer, after reading his report on his trip back to Portland:

Thursday, Sept 8, 2016

Yippee – you got home safely. I’m sitting in the Howe’s back yard with Bella, the young rottweiler, pacing beside me. You met her when you dropped me off – she’s the puppyish one, no dignity at all, and desperately wants to lick my nose. I had to use my pull-down-my-glasses voice to keep her from eating the computer. But I think I’ve got the right tone now; she lies down for at least 3 seconds at my command. Rose is trying to teach me, by example, the right tone of voice to control with the enthusiasms of Bella. I may or may not succeed in learning it.


Bella, who really would like to lick my  nose

A very quiet day. I followed Rose around (outside the fences while she was inside) while she fed the animals at about 10 AM. She calls the area where the animals — cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, piglets and young hogs — come together, “the barnyard.” It’s a bit like the kitchen table in a farmhouse. Everyone (with the exception of one mum and adolescent pig) are fed and watered there. It strikes me as an extremely efficient layout – and also I realized that, duh,  any sensible homesteader would lay out the animal feeding care center this way. Of course, this is what “barnyard” meant, back when we were an agricultural country. It’s only my city slicker ignorance that turned it into something else, smaller or bigger!

Even with the efficient layout, Rose does a great deal of work in feeding and watering the animals — managing the different foods, hauling grain, forking hay, and watering into various buckets and troughs, as well as moving the critters around from one area to another, depending upon what they are to eat and who is supposed to be with whom at any given time. But at least it’s all in an area she can access easily, using the little four-wheeler to get the hay up the hill and to carry the food to the couple of pigs who live a bit away from the others.


Rose on the four-wheeler, about to put out hay for the cows

Mona (Ramona) lives for the moment in the farrowing pen. She has 7 piglets – they are like puppies, irresistible. I’ve been given permission to enter any of the buildings – Mona’s farrowing pen is just to the right of the cow barnyard and close to the bunk house. But I think I will stay outside the fences. These animals are Big. All seem quite pleasant on their side of the fence, but I wouldn’t want to get in their way, or to bother them by making them think that I was interfering with their space. I think that could be a mistake.


 Rose and piglets; Mona (Ramona) with her back to Rose, is busy with her own dish of food.

The important news of the day: one cow, Heidi, is now the sole source of milk and she gives only half as much milk as the other, Lass (Heidi’s Mum). Heidi is the only cow being milked because Lass is due to give birth sometime soon. Heidi, who has a calf in residence, is also young thus giving less milk. This is of some importance in making the cheeses that Rose sells at regional farmers’ markets –less milk, fewer cheeses. All this I learned from Rose this morning, while she made her rounds.


 Handsome Heidi. Rose has her on “open feeding” – she gets as much food as she wants – because she’s a jersey and jersey cows have trouble keeping weight on. So I am told.

A couple of older pigs are headed for the freezer. One has a bad hernia; Rose was going to sell it but she didn’t trust buyers to keep an eye on it closely – she is worried the pig could suffer under someone else’s care. After it reaches a certain stage of growth, into the freezer it must go; this should happen before his puberty because then its taste will decline – you see, I am learning all kinds of things.

And she (Rose) knows which doe she’s going to shoot this fall – it has no young ones and hasn’t bred yet, so no babies are in danger.

Rose and Darrell hate barb wire. Barb wire is less spendy than what they use, but the deer can get their hooves caught on the barbs and then can’t get loose, so they hang there and die. So the Howes don’t use barb wire, even if it is less expensive. The Howes are properly licensed for deer hunting, and of course they are extensively trained in the use of their guns. They use their licenses to get venison for their freezer, useful food for the long winter, living 80 miles from the nearest supermarket.

And so on and on. I can see I’m going to learn a lot on this trip, most of it useless for city life.  I am impressed by their care for all the animals that come to their attention or are under their supervision – deer as well as pigs.

I took two naps, painted two small paintings of one tree (they’ll be stacked on top of one another.)  Nothing very exciting.


 First painting at Triple H: Ponderosa, 4 x 8”, oil on board

I was impatient with the painting process for some reason.  I had more fun with the camera — took 128 photos, off-loaded them, and deleted the obvious failures. Took three or so short walks – tonight I’m going back up the hill to the old school house. I think I’ll paint a larger painting tomorrow – not one of the big 30 x 40 inch panels but perhaps a medium-sized, 12 x 16”, one. Some of the photos are fairly decent.

I’ve decided that light and clarity are the important attributes of photography, whereas texture and color are most singular in painting. Of course, both share all these characteristics, but I see that the light out here is startling (wildly different from the mild and muffled light of Portland) and while this brilliant light can be painted anywhere, you can’t photograph it unless you are right where it’s happening. I think I may be where it’s happening, at least some of the time, in the next couple of weeks.

This morning I didn’t have my camera and coming back from my meander into the back woods I saw the perfect angle and lighting for the 37 Chevy that you and I were admiring last night. I thought of going back to the bunk house for my camera but decided I could get the photograph tomorrow morning. Then, later, Rose and Darrell loaded the car onto a trailer to take it to the swap meet where they may sell it. Rats! I took a bunch of photos of it on the trailer anyway, but none had that zing I saw earlier.


The flat-lit photo of the ’37 Chevy. Not as thrilling as the untaken photo of the car lit by the early sun this morning

Rule #1: you can’t take a photo if you don’t have your camera.

The wind is blowing, the sky is cloudless, the dogs, Bella and Brandy, are lapping water on the deck of the house. I’m sitting in the Howes’ grass, on a folding chair, writing on a wobbly folding table. A new adventure in internet life, bucolic emailing.

The deer came back in the fields this evening, and I’m going to walk up the hill and see if I can catch some of the photos I missed last night. No more leaving my camera behind.

For a day in which nothing happened, I sure can find a lot to write about

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8 Responses to The Last Homestead: Sept. 8

  1. Really enjoyed reading this this morning – I like your rule No. 1. I often find that I don’t have mine for the perfect photo only to come back later and find the moment gone. Perhaps it’s a way of life telling me to pay attention in the moment and to enjoy.


  2. june says:

    Well, Kit, I tried. I really did. But the eagle eye of the editor always wins. I don’t really want to get into a contest though; my spelling has declined drastically these days. Jer always calls them typos, ’cause he’s kind. I think perhaps sometimes it’s something else. But don’t tell him.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. june says:

    Kit — snort– That’s the best I could do –snort–


  4. Kit Szanto says:

    Loved the Ponderosa painting – and thought the deep blue sky shows the clarity of the sky – as compared to the skies we on the west coast get, i.e. had some photographic quality to it for me.
    Also loved the Howes’ hatred of barb wire, and their smart reason for hating it. Me too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • june says:

      The skies in eastern Oregon are a bear to get somewhere near right, so I appreciate your comment. The painting here is tiny 4 inches wide. Fun to do at that scale. As you will see, I didn’t stay at that size. And yes, barb wire has always seemed cruel, like razon wire in cities. I didn’t know about the deer, though, so I was doubly glad when Rose explained why they didn’t use it. The deer seem to have the run of the place, as you will see later:-)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jerry Underwood says:

    Looking good. Wonderful dog and cow photos. I fixed two typos in this one, nothing anyone would notice.

    Liked by 1 person

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