Monday, July 3, 2017

The Grand Gallivant: Goodbye to Willow Creek

Us on our last day in the garden we helped build

Our last week at Willow Creek was much the same as the first— weed-whacking, mowing, playing darts, eating good food— but with a comfortable familiarity. One of the last projects we worked on were getting the garden up and running— due to their greenhouses flooding, they hadn’t been able to start any seeds until we arrived, but on our last day, some of the seeds I’d planted had grown enough to be placed in the garden! 

We worked one day on fencing the garden to keep the chickens out, nailing down weed cloth with holes cut in it for the plants, and bending cattle panels into two trellises that form a tunnel through the middle of the garden. The next few days were a flurry of planting: lemon thyme, sage, rosemary, four kinds of tomatoes, seven kinds of peppers, scarlet runner beans (to grow on the trellis), cucumbers, pattypan squash, zucchini. I scooped out the holes, situated the plants, and tucked them in with new potting soil, patting down the warm black earth around their stems. It’s immensely satisfying work.

Zach turned 27 on the 20th, and we celebrated by road-tripping through some dicy dirt roads up to Ketchum, where we hiked in the sweltering heat up the side of Bald Mountain until we got confused in the tangle of service roads and just hiked down again. It was still fun, though!

The cows wish Zach a happy birthday.

View from Bald Mountain

In the evenings we played darts or watched movies or walked down the dirt roads. Once we took the four-wheeler up the canyon, winding our way along Beaver Creek (aptly named for the series of beaver dams along it) until we were surrounded by a pack of Great Pyrenees who were snarling at us like wolves out of a Disney movie. They were guarding a flock of sheep that grazed on the hillside nearby, looking like a pile of boulders among the sagebrush. When the number of dogs grew to about ten circling the ATV, Zach decided to turn around, and Kate told us later that it was a good call— “Those dogs will tear your face off.”

On our last day there, we spent a good chunk of the day steam-juicing cherries that Kate had gotten from a local orchard, picked that morning. They had a triple-boiler set up on a gas stove in their barn, and we dumped cherries into the top container, allowing the steam to cook them down and give up their nectar, which would be bottled and later turned into homemade wine. The water perked and boiled, bluegrass music played on Pandora, and Zach and I stood side by side at a table de-stemming the cherries, occasionally taste-testing them and spitting the pits into the grass outside. In that moment, I felt perfectly content. I felt like I could do this the rest of my life. 

That night, we had a “picnic” (teriyaki wings, bacon-wrapped jalapenos, veggies with buffalo dip, and tres leches cake) in the barn along with a couple neighbors, and we stuffed ourselves and played darts until the stars came out. 

Saying goodbye was difficult— we had grown so close to Billy and Kate in such a short time. Their affection for and gratitude toward each other and us, their generosity, and their good life out in Idaho will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

They sent us on our way with a quart of honey and a card, and Zach and I pulled out of the driveway and trundled down the dirt road toward the highway that would lead us to Portland. I cried.


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