O’Pear Lair

Benno 640

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Surrounded by lush pear orchards on four sides, this unique residential set aside, has no comparable home in the area.001---IMG_1588

Who knew when Captain Jackson built the original house for his brother between 1905 and 1912, what history would bring to the area and the homesite.

Many generations of Jacksons lived in the home, which may be a customized Model 105 from Sears, or it’s just a rumor. (It looks like it though.) Two Jackson sisters lived here for many years, and just up the hill to the east is a private family cemetery, just off Fir Mountain Road at the bend.

It is rare to find a residential property in the middle of orchards, as usually, the homes built in these surroundings are kept by the farming family. This home is the farmhouse without the farm. A true exception in these parts.

We have been living here since 1994, buying it after several previous owners tried to fix it up and add their own signature to it. What it needed was basics addressed and a unifying touch to bring it together.

Outdoor living with the addition of the decks and patios, has made so much more comfort, low maintenance and enjoyment of the outdoors even in cooler weather, that they feel like part of the house.

This home has been our refuge, our palette, our launching pad to explore so much of the natural beauty within such easy reach. The added bonus of being able to get our urban [fix] when we wanted to is just sixty five miles away in Portland. Rather than a freeway, it’s a trip down the Gorge.001---IMG_0049

If you’re looking for locally available fruits, vegetables and meats, Gorge Grown offers so many options that you can live without eating store-bought foods if you want free run beef, pork, chickens, eggs, and the weekly offerings from the farmer’s market. Many small farms will offer you your choice of cuts and ways to participate in weekly bags of fruit and vegetables.

Your own six 4 X 8 raised beds offer ample opportunity to grow your own, whether it be food for your table or flowers almost year ’round.

Raised beds
Raised beds

We’ve had our share of critter adventures, from many bird species which arrive for nectar and berries, to coyotes in the distance. Spring is filled with the sound of morning birdsong and nightly tree frogs and toads, saying, “it’s been a good day”.

Many a sunset has been enjoyed from the from the front porch with a good glass from one of the many nearby wineries and dinner carried out and eaten by candle light.

The front porch has been rebuilt from the ground up and years of trouble free living are yours as within the last four years we have replaced the septic tank and drain field; the roof; the heating, plumbing and electrical systems which have been brought up to code and made easy to use. The CO2 and modern fire alarms are very recent additions as is the lovely Tribute soapstone woods stove. While power rarely goes out in this area, it is nice to drink morning coffee and watch the little stove.

The house is newly painted with low VOC Benjamin Moore paint; the baths have been tiled, and made spa like for comfortable use. The kitchen has been gutted and enlarged to create a European country spot for easy cooking or large gatherings.

Woods and tile are used throughout for easy care, warmth and clean surfaces.

The house is all electric and with continuous upgrades, insulation and solar panels, the already low cost hydro at about seven cents a kilowatt hour, is very low and comfortable.

Winter brings infrequent snow, but Thomsen Road is on the plow route and the snow is light compared to locations near the river.

You can cross country ski right from your door or reach Mt. Hood Meadows in forty five minutes for downhill, snowboarding or more formal cross country.

A good bicycle ride can be started at the end of your driveway, or mountain biking on the ridge directly east of home on the ridge. Good hiking starts nearby and goes into the Mt. Hood National Forest, Mt. Adams Wilderness, thirty five miles to the north and back roads and Jeep trails on the hills towards The Dalles. Steelhead, salmon and trout fishing in local lakes and rivers are available almost year around.

O’Pear Lair is on the Fruit Loop with its abundant spring beauty and fall harvest.

Two very approachable golf courses are within an easy drive. Easy going downtown Hood River has many shops and several very good restaurants. Mike’s Ice Cream has been a fixture for many years, and always a hit during summer for an evening treat.

Easy living with all the modern conveniences and quick access to more urban locations makes this home special, unique and gracious.



SEASONS

In any season of the year, O’Pear Lair has beauty and magic.

Spring

– Flowers, pear bloom, gardening; by Mothers’ Day lovely full flower baskets can be hung from the front porch, and pots scattered around the decks and patios.001---IMG_1576

– Recreation: Late season skiing and snowboarding, 45 minutes away; hiking and biking; spring salmon fishing.

Summer

– Out door parties, garden, sitting on the porch,001---IMG_2684

– Recreation: hiking within minutes; biking outside your door on route written in glowing terms in national publications, at any level of expertise; camping; Lost Lake and the Mt. Hood National Forest; trout and steelhead fishing.001---DSCN5269

Fall

– Languid Septembers which turn to warm days with a bite in the morning and beautiful colors

– Harvesting the garden bounty.

– The wonderful scents of the earth.

– Recreation: fall return salmon, wonderful late season hikes, and warm river water for sail boarding and kite boarding.

Winter

– Wonderful time to enjoy the warm wood stove and European kitchen, small and large parties.

Hearthstone Tribute
Hearthstone Tribute

Golfing is available almost year ’round at several local courses. 

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Animals

– Birds come at various seasons, and with a little help in winter, black sunflower seed scattered on the ground keep California Quail, various Goldfinch species and other birds which come down from higher elevations to winter in a more fruitful environment. In summer, Orioles nest at the end of Oak branches, Black-headed Grosbeaks sing throughout the day. Hummingbirds are always nearby and feeding with multiple bottles encourages more to stay.

– The first thing you might hear is a den of coyotes in the distance, the kits happy to see their parents returning with hard won dinner. Throughout the year various owls pipe up at different times. The Great Horned Owls coming down from the hills at Halloween are heard hooting to each other in the Oak branches overhead. You can get a response by calling to them out the window and can see them with a strong focus flashlight.

The raccoons don’t like to be seen, but their paw prints in a water dish show where they have left their worm washing. Their are various Western Squirrels, ground squirrels and other native creatures.

LIFE IN THE HOOD

– Easy access to the airport and everything Portland has to offer.

Weekly Farmers’ Market

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) means you can buy all organic and local vegetables, beef, pork, poultry, eggs

Local parades and gatherings

Recreation for every interest

Golf, — Fishing, — Skiing, — Biking, — Hiking

Thriving down town, and local shopping and restaurants.

– Good schools, medical access, including community-based hospital, which is part of the Providence Regional Medical System, and churches of most denominations. Known for its livability.

HISTORY

Captain Jackson, one of the first settlers in the area, along with other members of his family bought several sections of land in the area. This house was erected for his brother between 1905 and 1912, court records are not specific enough to pin down exactly. At some point two Jackson spinster sisters lived in the house and the family cemetery is above the house off of Fir Mountain Road.

GREEN LIVING

This home has been tightened up and buttoned up for greater energy use efficiency. Most of the power comes from hydro at .06 cents a kilowatt hour. It is really hard to spend a thousand a year on energy, since it is all electric. The initial average use of 21,000 kilowatt hours a year, and has been brought to around 8,000 kilowatt hours a year.

The use of energy efficient appliances, removal of the old ducted heat pump/electric furnace system, to be replaced by Mitsubishi Mini splits and the little soapstone stove, and other zoned heating plus new insulation, has reduced the energy used by about sixty percent.

The upstairs bath floors are heated tiles as is the kitchen floor. There are a couple of zoned heaters in rooms which may not be used as much.

The final top up comes from the fourteen solar panels mounted on the south face of the garage. It comes with a software package which let’s you monitor the output, with hourly, daily, weekly and monthly totals plus real time graphs, through your wifi. There have been several no bill months as the old analog meter put back on the pole spins backwards when more energy is generated than used.

With a 94% efficiency angle more energy is generated in winter than might be expected.

There is a site with 96% efficiency for solar hot water and the water heater is already plumbed for the solar hot water storage.

YARD

The six four by eight cinder block garden beds are filled with ten year old composted soil and can produce extraordinary amounts of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

The eleven full sized Oaks provide shade in the summer and without leaves, heat can reach the house in winter. The new roof is light colored to reflect summer temperature gain. The house holds coolness of summer mornings and warmth during the winter.

The lawn is slowly being replaced with Yarrow, which can be mowed and stays green through the drier months. It is an Oregon native and thrives without fertilizers or much water.

MATERIALS

Throughout the house and outside as well, the use of clean and efficient materials, such as hardwood floors and tile and stone, make this mid valley home easy to care for and energy efficient.

While it’s expected that the basics are in working order, it might be nice to know what has recently been done to give years of trouble free living.

Recently completely replaced or redone are: the roof (2011); the septic and new drain field (2011); Oaks trimmed and made safe near the house (2011); replacement of the entire heating system (2011);  update of plumbing and electrical (2011-2014); new energy saver appliances (2011). All Marvin windows are double paned gas filled panes. Completely repainted by hand, in summer of 2014 with low voc Benjamin Moore paint.

THE BEST PART

Sitting on your porch as the sun goes down listening to your favorite music, and sipping a glass of good wine. Life doesn’t get much better.



SUMMER: An Essay

How do we know summer is here? Sunset dinner on the front porch.

I sat out on our mail order Adirondack bench and thought, I want to remember every bit of this evening. I have never been more happy and content than sitting on my porch at sunset, watching the bugs over the lawn in the lowering sun while sipping a glass of wine or a well made cocktail.

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How was our day?  I called mom just as the sun set, while we were resting the grilled chicken and waiting for the beef dogs to finish on the bar-b-que. I recounted our day, and what is going on with plants and critters around our rural half acre set in eighty acres of Barlett and Anjou pears.

I wish I could give the sounds and scents of our little piece of heaven.  The half moon gradually ascended over the eastern escarpment and became bright enough to cast shadows of our porch pillars and rail on the porch floor.

We lit citronella candles.  The wind which had gusted up to twenty four miles an hour during the day to the delight of kite and board sailors and our local sail plane pilot, calmed to a whisper.

While it was still light, I butterflied an organic chicken and lathered it with a pineapple, bourbon sauce; I made meatloaf hamburgers filled with chopped capers, sweet onions, mustard, chili sauce, soy and Worcestershire sauces, beaten egg, and panko crumbs, with ground beef from our local farmer – wanting to take advantage of our coals. Our CSA farm had delivered so much that I sauteed  garlic and onion in olive oil then added finely chopped basil and cilantro to beet greens, mustard greens and other early greens. As they wilted, I added a bit of vermouth and rice wine vinegar to pique the flavors.

The CSA salad was a mix of abundant lettuces, spring onions and blanched broccoli, and cauliflower tossed with red wine vinaigrette.

Earlier, our neighbors sang and called responses in Spanish, to the squeals of delight of many visiting kids and young ones. Then all was quiet as they headed for church.

My preparations complete, chicken crisped on its back and turned over to cook for about an hour, I made my newly discovered summer Sidecar and called mom. As I talked with her, I could look through the entire front room of our home directly at Mt. Adams in the last glow of the sun from below the western horizon. I saw bats working on the north side of the house, clearly visible against the now egg shell blue of the waning late sky.

I told mom about the swallow family which we rudely evicted to take off the old roofing and to put down the new light colored shingles.

Making sure there were yet no eggs we gave the go ahead to take out the dormer nest. To our relief, once the roofers departed, the swallows returned, rebuilt their nest and laid eggs.

The babies are now five days old and peeping away, especially when a parent comes in with some good bugs.

We are alert to alarm calls from the Swallow parents about the perennial attacks by Starlings on either their eggs or young nestlings. We bang walls, windows and today watched a squirrel charge the bullies of the neighborhood as they tried to take a young swallow for lunch.  No harm done, as the nest was successfully defended by all.

The Western Wood PeeWee screeches all day long as he launches from a naked branch at an unlucky insect. If we are close enough we can hear his beak click shut over the snack he just caught. We always know where he is, as he never stops calling out his location.

We heard an owl hoot for more than an hour last evening as we caught up on the latest Tour de France stage, filled with crashes. Ugh.
Our Bullock’s Oriels attempted their fourth nesting season but were thwarted by very cold late rain and wind.  So we have not seen them for a couple of weeks. Nor have we seen the unusual nesting high mountain Stellars Jays. Rufous Hummingbirds are launching young and males are seen chasing Goldfinch and Swallows away from favorite perches.The coyote pack howls if a fire station sounds its siren, and at night yip and call when food is brought in. They have traveled so close to the house we have heard their footfalls and breathing on summer nights.

Our fifteen year old cedar deck got yet one more scrubbing and new stain by our daughter and a pal while we were away. We added a second coat on a perfect summer day today. Regina walked across the newly refreshed boards, leaving not a paw print this evening.

What can we smell besides dinner on the grill?  The early lilacs and native heavily scented Salomon’s Seal have bloomed.

Peonies are on the wane. The yard is saturated with the intoxicating scent of Mock Orange. Our climbing Rose is at its peak bloom and our first Barbara Bush tea Rose, a gift from and long lost Massachusetts roommate, is making its entrance next to the front porch step, both filling the area under the porch roof with their own saturating signatures.

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Mom cannot remember that we visited last week and took her for a ride in her new wheel chair, out under firs where she heard Towhees and Robins and saw butterflies.  But she knew someone had taken her for a ride outside.

She did remember going to Mass this evening in her wheel chair with my sister. And she hopes that the next time we take her for a ride she will remember the trip.

But she chuckles when I tell her about the Kit House, and how it is coming along. She loves hearing about the birds and the flowers.  I fill her in on dinner preparations and the colored glow on the mountains.  A slice of life at our little farmette.

A quiet, I love you mom, and her reply, “I love you more”.  Then night, night, and I fix our plates for dinner on our porch.

What could be better.

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