Thursday, June 5, 2014

Storms, Puppy Training and 'Slow Life'

I'm freezing, the wind is whipping around and a cup of coffee sounds real good. Then it's hot, beastly hot, and I'm looking for my water bottle. Summer storms in the canyon -- roasting one minute, shivering the next. A storm blew through while Mike and I were finishing up corral work in preparation for branding this coming weekend.
Storm headed in from the south

Noon-day dark

Dark skies midday, but only a sprinkle of rain. It's still green, and the grass is lush and tall, but we could use more precipitation. The specter of drought never leaves us for long and we are thankful for every bit of moisture.
Old friends, shady locust tees

After the storm passes,  Mike goes back to hanging a gate and I mow the yard.  Last week Mike spotted seven snakes in one day, three rattlers, two bull snakes and a couple garter snakes. Mowing will help the snakes decide to steer clear of the yard and make it easier to spot them if they come close to the house. With grandboys and a pup, we are especially vigilant.

Bell practices her 'eye' on Punch

Bell, the pup, is growing like crazy. She races after the big dogs with amazing speed and shows her natural instinct to stalk and head everything that moves. But she's still a pup, dragging off shoes, getting underfoot, ignorant of snakes, trucks and horses. It will be a year before she really starts to work.

For now, we focus on having her bond with us for life, instilling the desire to please, to come, sit, down, and stay. We're watching her personality develop, reminding her that we are the top dogs, while trying to keep her safe and confident, avoiding bad experiences and harsh judgments that might limit her ability to thrive as a working dog. I often say that the dogs are worth their weight in gold. We couldn't run the ranch without them.

I've been taking time to draw and paint each time I'm at the river. It feels decadent sometimes, to wander off with a sketch pad or my little watercolor set, instead of heading out to work on the new fence or prune the fruit trees or any of the other myriad tasks awaiting attention.

I believe that work is a way of honoring place, of knowing it and knowing ourselves. But so is wandering, just looking at rocks along the river bank, admiring the softness of a fuzzy mullein, the way it catches light. Or sitting in the shade of a sprawling box elder tree, listening to the voices of birds that I can't name without seeing. 

Sainfoin flower
Recently I heard a community development colleague use the term 'slow life' to refer to his vision for Northeast Oregon.  Like 'slow food' that encourages us to savor and appreciate regional and seasonal food, and  'slow money' that encourages us to move our investments from frenetic disconnected Wall Street to local businesses owned by people we know, he was trying to go one step further, to 'slow life' - where we can savor our relationships with people and places.

Music box from the Black Forrest

 Back at the house, I notice the wooden music box on a corner shelf. Sent to us by friends in Germany, it has a playroom scene. When you wind it up, Beethoven's Fur Elise plays, a toy train revolves around a little boy, a mother jiggling a baby carriage nearby.  Far across the ocean, our friends picked out this gift, thinking of us taking time to enjoy it with our grandsons and other children who grace our lives.  

I dust off the music box, wind it up and place it in the middle of the kitchen table. While tinkling notes brighten the quiet kitchen, Mike and I savor glasses of fizzy water floating golden orbs of home canned peaches and topped with rare cubes of ice from the tiny freezer of our propane fridge. We raise a toast to 'slow life'.

Slow life  


From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef