date: 10 days ago our friend and filmmaker Fergus came over to film some baby pigs and chickens for a Boggs boot commercial he’s working on. That involved setting up numerous green screens and corralling multiple animals (who happen to have a mind of their own) and forcing them to march first this way, then that way then back this way cause they did it wrong over and over until you almost start hating the color green and your very own baby animals that are now loose on your farm. Two days later Fergus was BACK to shoot the long awaited snow shots for the Wilson Farm documentary he is also working on. He wanted big fluffy flakes with the camera zooming in on the dogs playing in the snow then zooming out on the big fluffy flakes. Much planning over if he could get here in the snow and trying to outthink the weather and the clickety-clack, here was Fergus. He had chained up his Prius and it made it! Whew! Now, I knew this epic documentary day was coming and had debated with myself for a whole day whether or not to take a shower since I would be immortalized on film in whatever state I happened to be in that day. As it happens I had not planned very well at all. My hair was in DESPERATE need of a coloring - 18,000 angry white and grey hairs were pushing up from my scalp like old man Winter was about to do to the greater Portland area. But I had just taken a shower on Wednesday and I knew that I would be bundled up for these snow shots with my head snug in a cute vintage hat. So why go to all the trouble to color and style my hair only to HIDE my hair? I decided meh. Just wear a hat and be done with it. Besides, time needed to be spent insuring all our animals had clean soft straw in their beds with the impending ice storm and filling vats with fresh water in case the power went out. Plus I had to clean the guest house for airbnbr’s. So Friday afternoon was spent bundled up in 19 degree weather wandering about with Fergus filming the frigid farm. The dogs were reluctant to leave the warm King sized dog bed, but after hearing our excited voices promise it would be fun down in the woods with all the snow, they begrudgingly followed us at quite a distance with hatred of this idea written all over their faces. I felt like a mom taking her tired spoiled toddler to get his glamour shots done KNOWING none of the photos would add up to crap. Sure enough the dogs would not play. To be fair, this was not snow. This was ICE. It was FREEZING outside and we managed to film the guest house, Viking house and the stone cabin on film as well as plenty of shots of me awkwardly not being able to light a candle. That should be compelling footage. At least I had a cute hat on. The only time the dogs looked happy was when they were running away from us after we opened the gate to get out of the woods and back to the house. Of course Fergus was not filming anymore so I’ll just save that memory for myself. Quickly, discussions turned to whether Fergus was going to be able to get back home since there was a sheet of ice covering everything. We were barely able to push his Prius up and out the driveway thereby sending him into icy oblivion. Bye Fergus - Take LUCK!
Our attention turned to our guests in the bnb making sure they were warm enough and happy. After rechecking all the animals we were just turning off the lights to climb into bed when a tree came down knocking the power line down from the road to our house. This would be the same tree we pointed out to the PGE crew last summer as they were clearing debris away from poles. Yeah, the same tree they said was fine at a 65 degree angle over our wire. Now that wire was down in Ferns’ pasture with her 6 curious piglets and also draped low across our driveway. Out went the power - in came the guests from the guest house wearing pajamas and masks on their faces. The only thing we had to offer them was a luxurious hide-a-bed that was broken on one end. After using their cell phone to call PGE alerting them to our power outage and showing them where the bathroom was and how to “flush” only your poop with a bucket of water from this vat next to the toilet we all snuggled into our cold beds for a very uncomfortable night, followed by a cold uncomfortable morning. We made breakfast for everyone and kept the fire going in the tiny fire box of our antique wood stove in our front room which is as far away from where anyone ever is as it can be. One wheelbarrow load after another came down from the barn to keep the fire going. The guests were nice enough to help with the wood, but the feeding and watering of 100 animals is made exponentially harder in the ice and snow. It was one backbreaking hour after the other and having to be “on” for guests who are stuck in your home is hard. I found myself grateful for the early gloaming of twilight as that made it easier to disguise the fact that I had not dusted my living room since taking down Christmas. (I cannot be alone here…) All that was going through my head is that I had guests who were going to write a review on the CLEANLINESS of their stay when it is impossible to have more than one room clean in a farm house at a time. Of this I am quite sure. Especially in Winter with a white floor and people tracking muddy snow water everywhere. Since I was not even clean myself, I did the only thing I could think of. I became the living embodiment of jazz hands. I engaged with them, played the piano, told stories, asked questions, cooked, tidied and pleaded with the sky to turn dark so I could be unconscious. Turns out they were lovely. And they actually ENJOYED staying in our living room. They thought it was romantic looking at a fire at night that wasn’t putting out any heat because the blower had no power. And, they promised, the bed wasn’t even that bad. OK even I know that is code for “GOOD GOD GET A NEW COUCH LADY!” We got to know them a bit too and were thrilled when he pulled out a guitar and blew our minds with his fantastic playing. He writes amazing songs and really appreciated hearing our music too. While the generator was on for an hour we burned them every one of our albums to listen to on their drive back home. (I love it when people still have CD players in their cars!) Our guests decided to head home a day early so we set ourselves to putting the scraper on the tractor and clearing the driveway for them. The wires draped across the driveway were a bit problematic, but Eric was able to clear most of the ice off after about an hour. As he was finishing up I noticed something wrong with the 1949 tractor and yelled to Eric “The tractor is on FIRE! GET OFF THE TRACTOR!!! Eric popped the hood up and flames shot up into the air - a blazing inferno all over the gas tank which sits on top of the engine. Eric leapt off the tractor and ran to the barn hurrying back with an extinguisher which, of course, would not perform no matter how many precious seconds Eric fiddled with it. He dropped the extinguisher and ran over to grab a shovel and heaped a load of sizzling snow on top of the gas tank which put out the fire. Our guests looked at me incredulously as if to check whether I was going to freak out. Nope. Not me. That is all part of the Eric Wilson charm that keeps me on my toes. An hour later we managed to push them out the driveway and into icy oblivion (presumably listening to She Said Yes cranked real loud) ((as if anyone has ever done that…)) Relieved that everything went so well with the guests and that we could just be ourselves for a bit we played Yahtzee till 8:30 then hit the sack exhausted. (from all those Yahtzee’s I am sure)
The next day was Sunday and we ourselves managed to get to Safeway to use the wifi to check emails and send messages to worried friends and family and to give the next guests due to arrive Monday night the heads’ up that we had no power and no way to heat the guest house. We promised they would get the first call when we got power back. We had seen 13 PGE trucks drive by our house, but I guess none of them could read Eric’s sign language. As we surveyed the farm Sunday night we both vocalized a jarring concern for the roof over the deck on the guest house. It was sagging so bad I thought it would collapse at any moment. Eric grabbed a tall ladder and threw a rake tied with a long rope over and over trying to grab bits of snow off. I suggested the weed burner to melt the snow from beneath. For the next hour we worked till 10:30 pm trying to get snow off that roof. As we worked trees started snapping and crashing all around us. ALL AROUND US. At a rate of about 7 trees a minute we heard the CRACK- SNAP- EARTHSHAKING-DESTRUCTIVE sounds of all out war. Otherwordly greenish white lights lit up in the distance as no less than 12 transformers blew while we worked. To add to the strangeness a PGE crew showed up and started chainsawing the tree that had come down two days before then left without attaching the wires. In those moments I worried while I torched the underside of that deck. I worried the deck would collapse on me or a tree would fall on one of our cabins, our barn or our house. I worried about our animals and hated how vulnerable they seemed to cold, injury or death. I worried about our neighbors and our loved ones, but mostly I worried about Eric who could be swept off his tall ladder by a huge chunk of snow breaking loose from the roof. Finally, I convinced him to come to bed with me where we could hold hands and pet our dogs and count our blessings.
That next morning was terrifically impressive. A giant part of a big tree came down 2 inches from one of our boars’ shelters and what with the electric fence being buried, pigs were free to wander at will. And wander dear Snort did. Right over to Clementine who naturally went into heat that day. Hamlet was not excited to have another suitor, especially one who out weighed him by 100 lbs. Monday afternoon I spent cleaning the guest house as best I could and got everything except the vacuuming done. Then I heated up water on the antique stove and washed two pairs of overalls for Eric and two skirts for me, then hung them to dry next to the stove. I decided to give myself a sponge bath and since I still hadn’t colored my hair now was the time. I brought a candelabra near the kitchen sink and dyed my hair with Eric’s help. My anxiety ramped up when I realized that hair color is flammable (most beauty products are, except maybe lotions) I had Eric hurry and rinse me out quick before I went up in flames like the tractor! After all that I did the dishes, swept and mopped the floor and cleaned the stove then made dinner and ate by candlelight again playing - you guessed it - Yahtzee again. At 9:30 I took the dogs out to go winky-tinky and was shocked to see a car pulling into the driveway! Our airbnb guests were here! Hippies with a 3 year old named dJango and an 8 month old named Zappa. On went the masks and in came the guests for round two.
Now four people had to share that broken hide-a-bed and a baby was crawling all over the floor. I was so thankful I cleaned myself and my kitchen, but I chided myself because the living room still hadn’t been dusted and how little kid hands were picking up all my breakable antiques and the baby kept crawling over to our swords and grabbing them! I could see the review now: DEATH BY BROADSWORDS AND DUST! These were the very best kind of people to be stuck in an ice storm with. They were kind, thoughtful, engaging, helpful, interesting and the 3 year old dJango looks exactly like my niece Cora did when she was 3. It broke my heart and exhilarated me at the same time. I poured myself into that kid, chasing him around the house yelling like a kid myself. I brought out my trunk of kid toys and books and enjoyed holding the baby for the mom and dad so they could eat. We told our most embarrassing stories and talked about books, animals, families, farms and the good people that we know. We introduced them to our numerous body parts and their various needs and many times all of us were laughing. I had forgotten that my favorite medicine is a childs’ laughter. It did my poor heart a world of good! Our dogs were so perfect- Finn loved the boy so much he tolerated 4 toy cars lined up on his back! ZuZu mostly slept on our bed trading snores with the cat. For two days and nights we hung out, then finally the power came back on! In about 4 seconds I had the guest house ready for them to move in so they could experience the thing they paid for. Back inside I ran the dishwasher, started a load of laundry and dusted the living room! Our guests could not have been happier and raved about the whole experience promising to come back. I could tell dJango had a crush on me so I gave him a picture of Eric and I and also gave him a baggie of snow to play with in the car and my last copy of the Monster at the end of this Book that I had read to him. They gave me a list of their favorite music and promised me a free tattoo if I want one. Which I DO! (Don’t tell my Mother) No rest for the weary today Eric and I castrated 4 pigs, I did 9 loads of laundry, Eric started cleaning the guest house for the people coming tomorrow, we are planning the attack on all this downed wood, we planned our garden and I have had to type this twice thanks to our computer dying.
There is so much to do here every hour of the day even this time of year. We felt like we were on top of our stuff two weeks ago when we pruned our apple trees and now that is laughable. As laughable as the need to sweep, mop and clean the stove again. Truly though, as much as this all could have sucked, it didn’t. I spent many great hours with my husband working and playing. I spent time with our guests. I spent time with our animals and enjoying the staggering beauty that awaits our notice out every window. So many people have told us that as beautiful as the farm and the guesthouse are - that what people are really going to love is getting to know Eric and I. But I think it’s US that are winning getting to share this life with people who show up as strange strangers and leave as friendly family.