A Great Month in the Pacific Northwest!

Trip Start Sep 29, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Shady Grove Ranch

Flag of United States  , Oregon
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

(This is Heather bringing you our update from Ashland, Oregon.)

When we started this trip, we had some goals -- some things we wanted to learn to help us lead a more fulfilling and balanced life.  Some of these could be considered "life lessons" such as: leading a simpler lifestyle; learning to live on a limited budget; and living with fewer material possessions. Other goals were more practical, lessons that we could take home and incorporate into a new lifestyle such as: raising chickens; creating and maintaining a larger vegetable garden; building raised-bed garden boxes; composting, etc.

We're excited to say we finally lived in a place that allowed us to get some of those practical lessons under our belt! As for "simpler" lifestyle...well, we did have our own bedroom with a king sized bed and the softest pillows ever; our own private bathroom; and our own TV room with cable TV (woo-hoo!) and beef dinners several times a week from grass-fed cattle raised on the property (delish.) But as you know, we've already experienced "simple" living quarters (see Pahoa, Hawaii), and primary meals of beans and rice so this was a nice treat.

Lessons Learned: An Overview

We were both eager to have chickens to care for since raising chickens is definitely something we want to do when we return. While here we were able to care for adult and baby chickens. This is definitely something we'll continue at home, especially with our new-found know-how:

  1. Lesson 1: Chickens will eat their own eggs. In this case, one chicken (Brownie) seems to be the culprit and only eats the eggs of the other chicken (Whitie). (We're not very creative with chicken names.)There doesn't seem to be anything we can do about this either. We tried putting golf balls in the nests in the hope that pecking at them would deter pecking at the egss. Those golf balls are now pecked to the cores.

  2. Lesson 2: Not all chickens like to be picked up and cuddled like cats.

  3. Lesson 3: An irate, pecking chicken can really hurt (see Lesson 2.)
Caring for horses was a new experience for us -- and though we have no intention of getting our own horses in the future, we definitely enjoyed our work with them. We had six horses to care for -- 5 adults and one baby.

  1. Lesson 1: What goes in, must come out. Once a day we had to clean out the stalls of these guys and by the end of 4 weeks, we knew exactly what to expect in each stall. Crispy gets the prize for quantity (he's sneaky, he eats his hay and sticks his head under the bars to eat Roz's hay as well); Safari gets the prize for least - where does it go?; Destiny for stinkiest (she's the only adult girl in the group); and Liberty Bell (the baby girl) for messiest. We also discovered that the adage "Pee like a racehorse" doesn't only pertain to racehorses.

  2. Lesson 2: If you open a gate, you better close that gate. Lesson learned the hard way.

  3. Lesson 3: Young horses like to bite. It hurts. (Rocket is 3 years old and still learning.)

  4. Lesson 4: If a horse bites you, bop him in the nose to teach him a lesson (the horse trainer told us this.)
Along with the chickens and horses we learned some other random things that we may or may not need in the future. Things such as:

  • Rats are smart. They can eat the bait out of a trap without getting caught -- many, many times.

  • A deaf cat knows when you've entered the room to give her dinner. You can clap your hands behind her head for hours and she won't flinch, but she can 'sense' when you've opened a can of cat food and come running.

  • If you ride bikes into town and you coast the entire way there, it's a safe bet that the ride back is going to be really, really difficult.

  • Grass fed cattle from the fields out back make for much better tasting beef than what we were getting at the stores at home. 
Things we didn't learn include:
- How did a horse tooth get into the chicken's nesting box?
- What ate our green pepper plants?
- How many squirrels did Lady, the dog, kill this month (we think 5)?
- Why does the public water fountain in town taste like sulphur and Alka-Seltzer? And does someone think it's funny to not post a warning? (Actually, there is a sign explaining the history of this water, but they don't tell you it taste terrible.)

But we did also learn that Oregon is one of the most beautiful places we've ever been. The town of Ashland is so charming that we hope to find something just like it closer to the east coast -- maybe to call home someday. If you ever get a chance to visit, you have to check out "Allyson's Kitchen" -- the store that our hosts John and Lynne own. It's a gourmet kitchen store/deli/wine shop/restaurant. We attended the Friday night wine tastings twice (hosted by Lynne's son Jeff) and had a great time both times.

We also went to see a wonderful play in town at one of Ashland's famed theaters (Ashland is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival); and we joined Jeff's wife Michelle and their daughter at a dairy goat farm open house where we enjoyed a day in the country with live blue grass music, goat cheese samples and delicious Oregon beer.

It's a good thing our Oregon experience has been so positive -- in two days we travel across the state to spend another month here -- this time at an organic vegetable farm in Lakeview. I'm sure much will be learned there as well!

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