Thursday, August 30, 2007


My grandfather, Jack Dobson, farmed this homestead until his passing in 1945 by means of horse-drawn equipment. When my dad took over, he used a Cle-track and in 1952 or so, he bought a D2 Caterpillar to pull the equipment, including a combine. Our neighbor and eventual farmer, the late Neil Miller, told me that he (Neil) had delivered an ultimatum to his father: “If you expect me to farm this place, you will buy a tractor. I’m not walking behind the horses!” They bought a tractor.

Before he graduated from college, my brother Chuck was my dad’s farm helper. When he was no longer available (about 1958), various family members stepped in to help with harvest, especially Nina. She rode the combine during lentil harvest. In those days, we would stay here in the house, which constituted a step back in time – cooking on the wood stove, bringing water from town, using the old kerosene lamps at night. At my mother’s request, my dad installed a three unit gas or oil burner so that we could boil water, warm baby bottles, or heat soup without lighting the wood stove. (It’s summer, remember.) My only “creature comfort” was my radio, which I carried with me constantly. The harvest operation started early in the day and went late. It seemed like it went on for days. My role was to help care for Nina’s children so that she could work. Whenever the pick-up was full of lentils, Mother would drive the load to Nezperce, taking the little ones and me along. Perhaps we made two trips a day. Yes, ours was a small operation but in the 1950s there were still small operations. Harvest time brought with it a sense of excitement as farmers from all over brought their crops to the grain elevators, all of them working at once.

I thought of all this the other day as I watched the barley being harvested. Our farmland is leased and the crops belong to a large farming corporation headed by a young man who farms much of the land in this area. He and his workers arrived at 5:00 p.m. with two huge combines and two semi tractor/trailers. By dusk – less than three hours -- barley harvest was over.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Until sometime in the 1980s, there was a church at the Gilbert Cemetery. Long unused for any type of service and becoming dilapidated, the cemetery board tore it down and delivered church benches to some of the old-time area families. My dad arrived at the farm one day to find a church bench on the side porch. It was left there for years somewhat protected on the porch. With our remodeling project, it had to be moved to the barn, where it stayed – until yesterday. To surprise me, Mike moved the bench to a spot on the east side of the pond. We think it looks picturesque there under the pine trees and would do as a spot for brief meditation. We pity all those who sat through lengthy church services!

As to deterioration of the bench as it sits in that spot – yes, that will happen. It’s not in great shape now. Mike set it on blocks and we will stain it. When it’s gone, it’s gone. KW

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Wind chimes can be controversial. In neighborhoods and even in families, some like to hear them, some could do without them, some find them annoying in the extreme. In a place like the farm, the music of the wind in the pines either competes with the wind chimes or blends with it, however the individual sees (er – hears) it.

I was at Hays’ Produce Market in Clarkston some weeks back when a large set of wind chimes caught my eye. I was curious how such large chimes would sound and timidly pushed one of the chimes in order to hear. Ooooh! I’m in a cathedral, I thought to myself.

As time went on, I began to wonder how I might get Mike those wind chimes for Christmas. Then he asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I found myself saying, “There’s a set of wind chimes at Hays’ . . .” I researched on line at, where I listened to a number of chimes, finally selecting “Westminster,” which I thought would be comparable to the set at Hays’. Mike bought them and we were able to fit them on top of the load in the Subaru and bring them to the farm. He hung them in the maple tree in front of the house as soon as we got here. And – as he lifted the clapper over my head, I looked up and read the label – “Westminster – Music of the Spheres.” KW


What does it mean to be retired? Well, it means you can go to bed at 8:30 p.m., set your alarm for 2:30 a.m., spend 90 minutes watching the lunar eclipse, then go back to bed and sleep until you wake up. That’s what it means to be retired. And that’s what we did.

As you know, the night sky is more vivid in the country away from the city lights. The family that homesteaded here watched the sky avidly. Even in Orofino, my dad kept up on the night sky and would go out to watch the stars. I know the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, but my dad could locate many more sky figures.

Anyway, due to what seemed conflicting information, we didn’t get up until 2:30 but were in time to see the sliver of light at the bottom of the moon disappear. Then we watched the eclipse for an hour, finally giving it up at 4:15. We started out on the front porch, watching to the south. But it’s getting colder now and as we became chilled we realized we could watch from the livingroom. Why not go upstairs? So, we went to “Hallie’s room” and watched from there a long time until the moon had moved so far west that we could no longer see it comfortably.

It was wonderful to be able to see it, but it happened so slowly that watching was tedious, although you could always take a break from the moon and look at other parts of the sparkling sky. KW

Monday, August 27, 2007


Excerpts – letter from Ina Dobson to Vance Dobson, her son:

[The fire started on a Sunday afternoon (August, 1934).] The men fought it over two weeks day and night up and down the canyon. It destroyed a lot of pasture for the Dieterle boys and got Aunt Maud’s timber. [Maud McCoy – not a relative.] It got the house, barn, 15 tons of hay, a lot of harness and farm machinery on the old John Shod farm about west across the canyon from us. It spotted across the canyon onto the side of the bench on which stands “the old crag” and was into our hay before we knew it. [Neighbors were alerted.] Well, in a very short time cars were coming and men spilling out with sacks, buckets, shovels, etc. At least a dozen cars came and they fought it out of the gulch leading up behind June’s hen house and from Shockley’s and John Boehm’s. It might have got June’s buildings had it come up this gulch. . . .

[They fought the fire all Sunday night.] They dug a trench down the canyon side to the old road that day and back fired along it for there was danger of the fire crossing the canyon and coming down on our side and it would have just swept us clean if it had. You see, the grass is awful thick over west and this old fence row running through to the west from the “green grove” is a rod wide at least and a regular fire trap, so with a west wind I don’t think we could have saved the house after this grove got afire. [She explains that despite prior back firing on this side of the canyon to the creek to make a fire break], it spotted across and came up here after all. . . . Monday night they [the firefighters] slept on the fire and put in most of Tuesday down there watching the back fire principally. Everything was so awful dry. It was surely an awful time and the danger great. It went up the canyon and they had a terrible time with it up there and finally Lewis County sent a deputy sheriff with an experienced fire fighter to direct matters, and men rallied enough to put it out. . . .

Thursday, August 23, 2007


My brother, Chuck, spent a lot of time on the farm as he was growing up. He submits the following anecdote about Elmer Bell and his hat:

“When Elmer would get frustrated, he would take his hat off, and, depending on his level of frustration, would either turn it in his hands a quarter turn at a time and put it on his head again, then repeat the process until he had vented sufficiently. Sometimes, he would throw it on the ground and stomp on it. I watched him plug up the cylinder in his combine, and go through the lift, turn, replace, lift turn, replace, and so on for several minutes. Then, he went to work unplugging the cylinder. I don’t think he saw me.”

Mike and I brought our three little children to the farm in the mid-‘80s. The details are vague now, but I think Hallie was two or so. Mike attempted to mow the lawn but had some problem with the lawnmower that he couldn’t fix without more tools. Elmer and Myrtle Bell happened to drive in. They put our whole family in their car and took us to their place where Elmer and Mike fixed the mower part. Along the way, Elmer told us that as a lad he had worked for the Dobsons (twin brothers with adjoining homesteads) during bean harvest, adding that the two families were as different as night and day. He said that as my dad grew older, his bearing was more and more like Jack, his dad, a comment my mother had made as well.

Do you remember Bruce and Celia Senter, neighbors to the north? Millers bought their place when they moved to Spokane. I often stop there on my bike ride. KW

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Traveling back and forth between town and the farm is a challenge. As we become more accustomed to it, we do a better job. When we arrive here, Mike unloads the vehicle while I unpack coolers and boxes. We leave one empty box available in the diningroom and toss items returning to town into it as the days go by. We also keep a pen and pad on the table on which we make lists – things to do in town, things to bring next trip, groceries, etc. We never pack clothes. We just bring the laundry. During warm weather I do all the laundry here and hang it out to dry. The trip back to town is not so extensive – just any leftover perishable food plus anything we think we’ll need in town. We leave an empty box in the dining room – and maybe several boxes in the guest bedroom – and the packing process begins all over again. Hopefully we didn’t forget our lists because it’s difficult to reconstruct them, and we usually begin to use them right away to organize our town activities.

The most difficult thing about the process, I find, is the packing of fresh produce. Any ideas? Also, we use a lot of milk. Even though our family is grown, we can still say, “If there’s a gallon of milk in the refrigerator, we’re close to out.” KW

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


The house on this homestead – the house which we now make our own -- was my grandmother’s dream house. She realized her dream in 1917 when a bumper bean crop made construction possible. The house was built by a “Mr. Philpot” who came up from Peck, as I understand it.

The house isn’t haunted – except by my own sense of history. “The melody lingers on,” as it were. This part of living here is hard for me. Sometimes it’s not easy to come face to face with the past – a past that doesn’t always include me but belongs to me anyway. Yesterday – a cold and rainy August day – I sat in the livingroom and read letters my grandmother wrote to my dad. They aren’t an easy read – the handwriting is difficult and so is the content. The letters tell of Depression-era experience for an elderly couple living in financial insecurity, her frustrations with her husband who grows forgetful while trying to cope with the demands of farming, her concerns for her children and their financial security as they try to establish careers during the Depression -- all woven together with wonderful details of life on the farm, life in this very spot. As I sit in the living room and read the letters, I look to the diningroom where I can almost see her writing at the table.

“There’s no use crying over spilled milk,” she writes on Nov. 21, 1934. “This is a wise saying and ‘worthy of all acceptation.’ Also we shouldn’t go around carrying dead work in the form of past mistakes. We surely do use up a lot of energy that way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just blot out all the past blunders and just figure on each day and its problems! That is what we are supposed to do, and yet how we shoulder the past and also fill our hearts with burdens of the future which may never materialize. Poor mortals!”

Monday, August 20, 2007


As predicted, today dawned cloudy and drizzly. That situation along with yesterday being pretty much a play day prompted me to get down to business. So I tackled the section of the barn with the big north facing door that houses all the scrap lumber and building materials. I hauled a 4 wheeler trailer load of the smaller width boards I didn’t want to the woodshed and cut them up with the chain saw. I’m going to try to burn a lot of boards this winter.

I rebuilt the lumber rack which had fallen down and stacked the boards I wanted to keep on it. I sorted through the old doors and kept a few of the better ones. I left most of the old windows for another day as well as the metal items which I will take to Pacific Recycling in Lewiston. The fun part was cleaning out the old straw, dirt and animal droppings. It doesn’t sound like much but I filled the Power Wagon including the ladder rack.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


No work today, just play. The forecast was for intermittent showers this morning and light rain this afternoon – 70% chance. When we got up this morning it was partly cloudy with almost no wind. That’s something in itself because air movement here is kind of like the hills – always here and lots of it. I’d been waiting for days for the wind to slacken to do some shooting as I’m breaking in a new rifle so this looked like my best chance. I got in several test groups with a couple different loads and was pleased with the results. The rifle is a Tikka 3 Light in 7mm 08 Rem caliber. Tikka is a Finnish brand made by Sako and imported by Beretta.

Since I was on a roll we then went down to the Clays field and Kathy pulled a round of 25 for me. That went well too. I missed a few but not as many as usual.

Next we decided to do our bike rides. Kathy did her usual Sunday route which is to stop by the cemetery but I decided to get in a road bike ride. That means hauling the bike 6 miles to the county line to the nearest pavement. I left the car there and rode into Nezperce and down through Lawyer’s canyon to the Seven Mile grade turnoff to Kamiah. I turned around there and headed back and the rain started about the time I was leaving Nezperce. I didn’t mind the rain itself (it’s the first we’ve had since the last weekend in June) but with the combination of rain, wind and dropping temperature I was shivering cold by the time I got back to the car and had completed the 40+ miles. However, a hot shower and some hot soup Kathy had ready made things ok.

With the rain forecast, last night after supper I worked until 8:00 pm cleaning out the gutters. The gutters feed the cistern which had just dropped to below pump level the day before. What perfect timing! It’s rained all afternoon and supposed to do more. The farmers may not be happy but I’m sure the fire fighters are.

We took our usual two mile walk this evening mainly to give Nellie her run. It’s still raining but not too hard.

Getting ready for a crock pot chukar meal topped off with homemade ice cream that I made yesterday so you see it really has been a fun day.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


From our south field, looking south, you can see a kind of road on the opposite side of the canyon. I plotted this road on a map placing waypoints along it so I could find it with the idea of making a trip down in the canyon. However, where the map shows it joining a main road there is nothing but a field. This morning I decided to solve the mystery by hiking down to it from where the picture was taken. I purposely picked a day when it wasn't quite so hot and Nellie was able to find a little water in the bottom to cool off. It took about two hours of rough hiking through star thistle and brushy draws before I finally hit the road east of the area in the picture and near the bottom but before it crosses over to the other side of the canyon. The recent fire crews had opened the old road up with a cat so it was pretty nice once I got to it. I followed it out to the main road going up the canyon to the northeast. The reason I couldn’t find it from the other end was that it ended at the edge of a field about a ¼ mile from the main road. Then I had a 2 1/2 mile hike back to the house but at least it was on a road and if not flat (nothing in this country is) at least reasonably smooth. Now that I can find the starting point from the road end my next adventure will be to make a trip on the 4 wheeler all the way down and up the other side doing some exploring. According to the map it meanders for quite a ways with several forks.

I got a good view of where the fire had burned by taking a little side trip on the way out. I also ran across a couple of the fire fighters and they said there were only a few smoldering stumps still posing a possible problem. I’ll wait till that’s all cleared up before my next foray down there.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Our address here is 2000 Dobson Rd., Orofino, ID 83544. One of our first projects of the summer was to install a mailbox where Dobson Road meets Curfman Road -- about a mile from our house. That's as close as the post office would agree to come. I have a short subscription to The Christian Science Monitor being delivered to this address -- and we get a weekly flyer from Barney's and some of Mike's bicycling catalogs. That's about it -- but we check it daily when we are here.

About "Frog Ranch" -- That's Mike's idea and one that may change. Finding a lasting name for the place seems difficult. The family once called it Rimrock Farm and Daddy had a sign made calling it "Hoot Owl Farm." But the reason Mike calls it Frog Farm is because of the bull frogs at the pond. Mike Lorenz, our contractor, really encouraged us to expand the pond, which we did with a grant through the agricultural service. Then Mike Lorenz planted tadpoles. I don't know how many he put there, but they are prolific now. In June during frog mating season, I thought they would drive me nuts!!!! The constant drone was horrible. We are beginning to consider natural preditors.


I ride my bike most every day. The main reason is the exercise. The other reason is to get out and see what's going on. There's always something going on -- even in these quiet places. Today I met Pete Curfman out on the road and asked for a report on the fire. He said he could tell me one thing -- it wasn't near as exciting as the Tribune made it sound. The fire was started by Mosman's combine. The Praest homes were never threatened -- Pete said it didn't even come close to them. He said he went over and things were hopping for a while, but he commented that those fellows with their big discs can do a lot in a short while. He said there were six helicopters that showed up to fight the fire and one was huge. I forget how many gallons he said it could hold. It hovered close to a pond and sucked up both water and mud and when that was dumped on the fire it was pretty well out. We're gratful the fire was handled quickly and successfully. KW

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I happened to spot a little item in the Lewiston Tribune relating that An Inconvenient Truth would be shown at the Lapwai High School auditorium Wednesday evening, the 15th, at 7:00. Mike and I have been wanting to see it, so we decided to go. Our friend, Rosemary, went with us. The paper said the movie was sponsored by the Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries. The announcer said that this movie was one of a series; the next one will be in October. I suspect they have a grant to support the program. They had free food -- hot dogs, water and juice, pop corn -- and Avista was there with freebies -- pens, caulking, light bulbs, keychains, a shower timer (like an egg timer), candy, etc. Child care was provided, and the announcer said that the program was intended to be family-friendly.

We appreciated the opportunity to see the movie on a big screen. It was very warm in the auditorium and no one stayed for discussion, but the three of us had lively conversation on the way back to Lewiston. Rosemary, ever-conscious of environmental issues, pointed out that despite the "save the earth" focus, beverages were served in plastic cups! KW


We arrived here at 9:00 a.m. Lots of smoke in the air but we found no actual fire damage on our property -- or even visible from our southern boundary, which Chuck tells me is on Wheeler Canyon. Apparently we weren't really closely threatened. There were no fire breaks plowed around our fields. We didn't see any evidence of fire on Gilbert Grade either.

Sometimes we see interesting "nature" in town. This morning six mule deer doe hopped through the field above our house with a buck bringing up the rear. Quite the family!

We are not seeing so many hummingbirds here at the farm but a few stragglers remain. I figured they would be gone with the last feeding, but one buzzed Mike as he sat on the porch this morning. So, I made more nectar and filled the feeders. Now and then I go out and swat the yellow jackets away. KW

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Mike and I came to town yesterday afternoon. In this morning's Lewiston Tribune we read about the fire on Russell Ridge involving the Praest family and threatening Little Canyon. We have tried to call neighbors for information without success -- busy or no answer. Official online fire sites indicated a 350-acre fire would be contained today. So, because of business here in town, we decided to press on, complete our list of activities, and get back to the farm as soon as possible -- probably tomorrow evening or Thursday morning. I visited with Leroy Praest a couple of weeks ago and at that time he said it was the driest July he has ever seen. He expressed his concern about the fire danger. He added, however, that rain now would not be good because of the approaching harvest. Our "lawn" on the farm is dry and brown.

Mike and I are both enjoying this blog. We have appreciated hearing from many of you -- either by means of comments or by email.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I took my long bike ride Sunday and although it was only 23 miles it was a tough 23. Kathy usually rides first thing in the morning so I decided I'd go with her this morning and take the dogs for an easy run. After we were down Miller Rd aways I felt I should take the dogs back so I turned around and Kathy continued to the end of the road. Duke got tired enough to break into a walk about ¾ miles from the house so it was a good thing. He has good endurance at a slow pace but when it picks up he begins to tire whereas Nellie can keep going.

After returning I decided I'd get a short gym workout. As I began my workout I looked up and saw these two fledgling barn swallows curiously watching me from the top of a barn gate not six feet away. I went back to the house, got the camera and got several pictures from as close as 3 feet before they finally took off and zoomed out a window with a missing pane. We have a deal – they can habitate the barn so long as they don't build their nests over my workout area. They soon get the picture.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood but we have to go into town for a few days to take care of some things. M/W

Sunday, August 12, 2007


When my dad was farming this homestead, he contracted with Elmer Bell to harvest our wheat. Elmer would come with his state-of-the art self-leveling combine which seemed huge against ours, which Daddy pulled with his D2 Caterpillar. Elmer's wife, Myrtle, hauled the grain by means of a dump truck to Nezperce. While they worked in our field, we would provide a noon meal (dinner) for them. My mother either cooked it at the old wood range in the kitchen or prepared it at home in Orofino and carried it to the farm. Anyway, I remember an occasion when Elmer came in from the field covered with dust. Mother gave him a pan of water and a towel so that he could wash his face and hands before dinner. He never said much to me, but this time he looked at me with a wink and said, "If I get half of it off with the water, the other half will come off with the towel." Without my missing a beat, Mother rejoined from the kitchen, "Kathy believes it!" I thought of this incident recently when my washcloth turned brown with the use of a liquid bath soap. I then saw the value in purchasing the recommended bath poof. KW

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I have one of those Staples Easy Buttons and whenever I finish one of my projects (or a portion of one) I hit it. I gave it a tap yesterday. You can just pospone things so long so I resumed the barn clean-out project. The northeast room in the barn where stuff was stored is now empty. We kept a few things but most is in the back of the Power Wagon awaiting a trip to the dump. The other compartment with a door on the north side is also cleaned out except for a bunch of grass seed that I don't know how I'm going to remove.

I've got a clay pigeon range set up that is really fun and challenging. The trap is situated on the top a draw throwing towards the other side. The shooting stations form a sort of V going down each side of the trap. You can also shoot from on top behind the trap.

I went with Kathy on her bike ride this morning and gave the dogs a little 8 mile run. I don't think we were going fast enough to really tire them out.


The mornings have become considerably cooler -- the first hints of fall. I had to put a blanket on the bed, such a change from the relatively warm nights of last week when temps were not below 70 -- even here! This morning it was 55. It's an interesting time to be part of a farming community with harvest activities going on.

Looking out the kitchen window Thursday evening, I spotted two deer in the neighbor's garbanzo field. I thought they looked like mule deer -- so we checked with the binoculars and found them to be two mule deer bucks! They were there again last night. And they don't discriminate. When they get tired of garbanzos, they move into our wheat field.

Upon our return from taking the dogs for a walk, we came upon a rattler at the top of our lane -- coiled and ready to fight. I kept the dogs away while Mike encouraged the snake to move along with a long pole. My dad wouldn't let a rattler live -- but we try to take a more charitable approach, especially since they have a function in our eco-system.


We were about our morning chores the other day when Duke turned up missing -- Duke, the dog who belongs to someone else, the dog we're caring for and nurturing in the place of his master. We called. We looked in his kennel, in the barn, in the woodshed, in the storage shed and at the pond. Mike took the 4-wheeler and rode the perimeter of the farm and then out to the highway -- twice. I was convinced we would never see Duke again -- that he found us inhospitable and was on his way back to the Valley and Ken, his master. Next Mike took the pick-up and drove the length of Miller Road. While he did that, I took Nellie and walked down our lane and onto Dobson Road -- a customary walking route. I felt that Nellie knew we were looking for Duke. She would put her nostrils into the wind and poke her snout into spots here and there as we walked along as if checking for Duke's presence, past or present. However, she lapsed into hunting mode when she came upon a covey of huns -- and now she's disappeared. Returning to the house without either dog, we alerted Ken (in case someone would find Duke and call Ken) and then Mike took his bicycle for a more extensive search. Just as he reached the bottom of our lane, he met Nellie -- and she was reluctant to return to the house, as though she had something to say and we weren't listening. And then -- here came Duke. What a relief!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Last night Stephen Colbert provided a rather rude definition of us bloggers. Well, you are kindly welcome to read our blog -- but only if you want to.

We arrived here at the farm about 10:30 a.m. The weather is seasonably warm but breezy. I can see harvesting in progress on the Miller farm to the north of us. Our place has not been worked yet. I can't say whether or not harvesting is in full swing. I rather suspect so.

We have been "working on projects" (a phrase of summarization I picked up from the Industrial Commission) since our arrival. I love retirement -- being able to spend time here at the farm, the flexibility to do what I like at a time convenient for me. But I admit that I could use a fulfilling project or two. I'm working on that.

Mike is down at the gym right now. The "gym" is a spot in the barn where he has set up some weightlifting equipment. Nellie likes to go with him; she pokes around in the barn and tries to catch frogs in the pond. Our ordinary custom of a late afternoon is to walk out to the head of Dobson Road -- about a mile -- where our mailbox is located. No, we don't get much "snail mail." KW

Monday, August 6, 2007


A special depridation hunt has been called for the Praest farming operation. Leroy Praest came to see us last week and invited Mike to participate. However, upon researching, the out-of-state deer tag Mike would have to purchase is prohibitive, so he will not be participating. It was nice to have contact with Leroy.

Mike's reputation as a cyclist precedes him. The neighbors all talk about him. Now they are talking about me, too -- up and down those hills on my mountain bike. I ride between 10 and 12 miles most days while on the farm with the occasional day off.

With this next trip to the farm, Duke (McKim) will accompany us. Nellie's snout will be just a bit out of joint over that. It's a control issue.