Mike and I moved to this new house in Wallowa County a little over a week ago. I’m thrilled to share the following report!
If you’ve never looked at Wallowa County on a map, I recommend it. For even more fun, learn about its geology. After 18 years of hiking around on basalt, it’s fun to see granite again.
The house is “up Alder Slope,” meaning the west side of the Wallowa River Valley. It’s closer to Enterprise than to Joseph. We gain a couple hundred feet of elevation on a road that heads straight up from town—no one will ever be able to sneak up on us! From our perch we can see both towns, the Wallowas, of course, and even the peaks of the Seven Devils in Idaho.
I’ve seen all kinds of wildlife. The first time we pulled in the driveway, a flock of quail scattered. We share this land with them and also hawks and eagles, rufous-sided towhees, flickers, mourning doves, magpies, Steller’s jays, Le Conte’s sparrows—and those are just the ones that have made their presence known. I’m sure the characters will change some with the seasons. Mike did not see a single crow while he was here this summer, but a huge murder of them came through the other day, bound for their winter habitat. The starlings seem to be more migratory as well—there were at least a hundred in the field a few days ago, and none before or since.
Does and their near-grown fawns pick through the wheat stubble in the mornings and evenings. A flock of pigeons inhabits the decrepit old barn, which is, allegedly, the home of a bull elk as well. One morning, a coyote trotted across the field above the barn. I went out to watch it; it stopped a couple of times to acknowledge my presence, and then kept going.
One thing about living on the east-facing slope of a mountain range: You don’t know what weather is coming! I drove into town on a sunny afternoon recently, only to turn around when I got there and see an enormous storm cresting the western horizon. We won’t get much in the way of sunsets, but the sunrises … oh, my. In the city, you can’t get me out of the house at 8 in the morning, even if it’s on fire. In the country, I’ve already started waking up with the sun (or at least around 7 …).
We live in the middle of an 80-acre wheat field. Yesterday, I walked up to the old barn to check it out (lots of pigeon poo), and then around the edge of the field. The man who leases the field had missed a thin swath of wheat when he harvested, so I picked a little sheaf and hung it in the house. A symbol, I’m hoping, of our prosperity here.