Thursday, September 26, 2013

City Girl in the Country

I visited with author Paty Jager on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.  We are doing a presentation together at the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association annual trade show in October. Paty and her husband have a cattle ranch and also grow alfalfa. There is a three to four hour drive between us, and a world of difference in topography, culture, and daily life.  Paty often drives over the mountains to come to the Portland area for events, but this was my first time to go the other direction.

For those who don't know, I live in a townhouse on the west side of Portland in Hillsboro.  My complex has approximately 100 units in it that cover a single square block. I am surrounded by roads and bridges, constant noises of new buildings being constructed, and shopping of all kinds within a mile. It is about as suburban a lifestyle as one can imagine.  Paty lives on a great deal of acreage in eastern Oregon surrounded by grass and alfalfa, cows and horses, and three dogs. The road to her home is a dirt road and the nearest large shopping area is 10 miles away.

The work went well, of course.  Paty is an amazing author with lots of creativity and ideas. She is a great partner for this presentation.  We had loads of fun coming up with a PowerPoint that was visually interesting while providing important information.

I also had the opportunity to walk with her on her property as she fed animals, checked for newborn calves, and shared with me what her daily life on the ranch is like. The dogs followed us throughout our walk, herding us just like they would herd cattle. I'm sorry I didn't take pics of the dogs. The race about so fast that they were gone before I thought of it.

I was struck by the vistas from her ranch and the differences in our lives. My visit with her was at the same time relaxing and exhilarating. I consider myself quite educated, but there were all kinds of interesting things I didn't know about ranching. For example, certain breeds of cows have horns like those pictured here.  I thought only bulls had horns.  I also thought that all calves were born in or near the spring.  No, it is the rancher's choice as to win to put the bull in with the cows. (Duh! It seems obvious once you are told.) Paty and her husband choose to have calves born in the late summer and early fall because their schedule slows down. They aren't doing as much irrigating and the hay and alfalfa are already in, so they have the time to doctor calves, tag them, and watch them to make sure they are growing well.

Oh! And bulls are often shared between ranches to make sure there isn't inbreeding.  But they are careful which ranches they share the bulls with because cows can get sexually transmitted diseases just like people. So, one has to be careful and know the breeding history for the ranch where you are sharing your bull. Hmmm...I think there is a lesson in there somewhere. :)

I loved seeing the animals and walking with her to check on newborns.  Avoiding the cowpies as we walked the property was something that definitely took concentration. I loved learning about irrigating and how one small engine turns a very long line of pipe and wheels. I was surprised at the feeding schedule and how much hay one provided the horses twice a day. 

The combination of working dogs, cows, calves, horses, a burro, and the amazing vistas gave me a sense of why people choose this lifestyle.  It was a wonderful visit, but I knew it is a lifestyle that wouldn't work for me.  On the one hand it is rather romantic--the isolation, the hard work, the
scenario of being snowed in together or simply working side-by-side every day with someone you love. On the other hand, not being close (in distance) to all the things that are a part of my daily life--grocery store, church, medical facilities, a variety of parks and recreation, brewing supplies for my husband, and many other things that we've become accustomed to having within a mile or two would likely be missed.

As I was on the last walk with Paty before I returned home, she mentioned that their ranch is on the market. She and her husband have a second property, 150 miles away, where they grow alfalfa. They want to "retire" to the alfalfa ranch and slow down a little.  Evidently, that life would be less work than the cattle ranching.  She also said: "It's getting too crowded here."  All I could do was smile. Paty was born and raised in the countryside of eastern Oregon where farming, ranching, and true cowboys live. I was born and raised in the city (Los Angeles, California).  Though each of us like to visit the "other side" neither of us would ever be happy living there.

There were so many more pictures I could have taken, but didn't. There is something to be said for simply enjoying the moment and carrying it in your heart.  I know I will visit Paty again some time. Perhaps I'll visit when she moves even further away and is more isolated. I would like to know what that is like too. If you haven't already, you should definitely pick up some of Paty's books. They are distributed by all the major vendors and I have to admit I've loved every one of them.  Some are simple and others are complex.  All of them are love stories, and definitely worth your time. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Early Morning Rainbow

This morning I awoke at 6:30 to rain and a dark sky that I anticipated would be indicative of the entire day.  However, as I sat at the dining table and slowly read the paper while savoring my coffee, I noticed a little sunshine peeking in the kitchen to the east. I walked out onto my west-facing deck and saw this wonderful rainbow.  It only lasted 20 minutes, but I enjoyed every second of it.

Ever since learning the story of Noah and the Ark as a child, I've always seen rainbows as filled with hope and promise.  Certainly, this morning the rainbow did that for me.  Though the rest of the day remained cloudy and rainy, I have that early morning promise still inside my head and it has carried me through the day.