On To Oregon

As I’ve been sitting here, going through my pictures, running back through my memories and then thinking of my life in more zoomed out shots, I realize just how blessed I am. I have a dear little home, a church that I love, a hometown that I’m an active part of, local friendships that are special to me, and responsibilities and duties that tie it all together. I love running off and seeing the world, experiencing new places and making new friends, but I also love coming home. And my life between these adventure blog posts are full of normalcy, of tiredness after busy days of work, and the normal ups and downs, and struggles and irritations of ordinary life. The problem with mainly blogging about the fun stuff is that it looks like that’s about all I do, when it’s actually a much smaller portion of my life. The joys and blessing of a husband and children aren’t mine at this point, and so there’s often an opportunity or two sitting on my plate, and it really does take wisdom to figure out what to say yes to, and what to decline.

Back to my trip now. So my last post had everyone headed home except for me. I was headed for a part of the country that I had never been before. Oregon. and Washington. And on most of my days out there, I was in both states daily. Waking up in Oregon, and then doing the bulk of my job across the state line in Washington.

A little background- earlier in the year, a Bible school friend of mine contacted me about coming and helping her and her family with their busy harvest activities. If you want to see some of what all it involves, check out their youtube channel: Blue Mountain Hay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-GgJD3M-Gs and here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWenGVIcyNU.

Basically, David and Rosalyn and their extended family operate a wheat straw harvesting operation which has so many moving parts, and multiple crews in different locations. I’m not sure I completely understand it all even now and I was constantly googling things like: “what is a swather” or what is a telehandler”. In case you’re interested, the swathers really looked liked John Deere mosquitoes. But I digress.

Harvest is a really busy time of the year, and guys come out from all over the US to work on the crews and run the equipment. So you’re probably wondering where I fit into all of this and if I got good at running swathers and balers? I’m flattered that you asked. The answer is uh, no!

I served as an assistant to Rosalyn, and a general housekeeper at the apartment where the crew stayed. David and Rosalyn made me feel like part of the family and for that I’m so grateful. Memories with Annabelle, Daisy, Micah, and Malachi and the fun times, and the jokes and the giggles we shared are some of my favorite from my time there. I really enjoyed helping Rosalyn, and learning what it looks like to cook dinner, night after night after night, and to do it with care and thoughtfulness and finesse. I enjoyed helping with dinner prep, and the mad scramble to get the children, the food, and the serving ware out the door and drive up to 30 minutes away to feed the crew in the spot they were working. For the first two weeks, we took dinner out to the crew and while that was it’s own level of challenging, it was completely worth it for the fresh air and the incredible views we enjoyed each night. There were nights when the full moon came up, that I thought my heart would just burst from the beauty of it all.

You can’t make this stuff up.
You really can’t. These were our dinner views.
Sometimes we’d just set up on the road, if it was quiet enough 🙂

You have to understand that farms in the PNW are not the same as farms back here in the east. It is quite possible, because I saw it with my own two eyes, to be on top of a hill, and only see dusty hay fields forever and ever in any direction you looked. This is farming on a massive scale and it’s just a little hard to comprehend because it is so different here.

-get up, drink coffee, have quiet time

-drive 15 minutes to the crew’s apartment to tidy up, prep sandwiches or wraps and veggie and fruit packs for the next day. I tried to be creative and not just prepare cold cut sandwiches every day but my creativity ran dry towards the end. When you eliminate any hot options, it just really limits what all you can do. I never heard anyone complain, so that was nice, even though they surely must’ve gotten tired of all the sandwiches and wraps all the time.

-stock the fridge with drinks, snacks, and everything the crew would want for packing lunches for the fields

-make a grocery list and then head to town

-take 7 or 8 or up to 12 loads of laundry in the laundromat. These loads were full of dirty, dusty jeans. Spray them off and hope for the best. Watch with fascination the very brown soaps suds tumbling around and then with amazement as they’d emerge, squeaky clean. God bless those washers! Throw them into dryers and then do more shopping. Come back, fold them all, load them up into the car, with the mountains of groceries, and then go back to the apartment to hopefully put each person’s stack in the right room.

-Get back to Rosalyn in time to help with some dinner prep. And maybe make some cookies. Make up jokes and have fun with the children.

-Load everything up, take dinner out, serve it, clean up

-Get home late (9-10:00 sometimes), unload the car, take care of food, clean up the kitchen

-Fall into bed

It is part of my life’s philosophy to enjoy where I’m at in the moment and have fun while I’m doing it. So when there was a Mouse in The Apartment, I decided the guys probably had less reservations about confronting it than I did, so I decided to negotiate. Catch the mouse, and you get a special dessert. Apparently it was something of a team effort, made infinitely more fun by the fact that they captured it alive, and so they all got Peanut Butter Pudding cups, and the Chief Mouse Catcher got a cat on top of his.

These were full, busy days, but there’s something about being part of a team and working normal chores that went towards the success of the whole operation, and knowing the satisfaction of having contributed to making it all work that made it so rewarding.

Towards the end of harvest, the different crews would join forces and they would harvest farms closer to home, and so we’d gather on Nevin and Dorothy’s (David’s parents) porch for dinners. We spent many a wonderful evening eating together. And joy of joys, there was running water, and tables and chairs and other little luxuries that we had fore-gone on our dinners in the fields where we’d bring pitchers of soapy water, and would sit on tail gates or equipment or on the dusty ground.

But I didn’t only work. I enjoyed exploring Walla Walla on the weekends. I ate lots of tacos from food trucks that are everywhere out there. Rosalyn, the children and I spent a morning at a flower and vegetable farm close by:

We spent an afternoon visiting the Marcus Whitman mission/massacre site:

I had full privileges to all of Rosalyn’s beautiful flower beds and gardens and made many a posy while I was there. I particularly enjoyed her bed of David Austin roses. Their soil, though it must be irrigated, is some of the most fertile anywhere in the US, I believe. It is enriched by the volcanic mineral content and they can grow about anything.

Towards the end of my stay, Rosalyn took us to Joseph, a nearly 3 hour ride away. I taught the children how to play, “My Father Owns a Grocery Store, and that passed the time quite nicely and before we knew it, we were there. Its a mountain town, nestled around a beautiful lake, and you could almost pretend you were in Switzerland.

Oregon was unusually dry when I was there, and the danger of fire was always on our minds. Sometimes the sky would be hazy from the wildfires south of us. On the worst days, it felt like dusk for better parts of the day:

Annabelle, Daisy and Rosalyn prepared the most beautiful ladies’ brunch the Saturday before I left. I wasn’t allowed to see any of the preparations and what a beautiful surprise to walk into the backyard and see what they had done:

It was such an incredible opportunity, and I enjoyed it so much I’m going back this summer for a few weeks. A special thanks to the Derstine family for opening your home and your lives to me, and allowing me to be a part of something so special.


3 thoughts on “On To Oregon

  1. How fun to see your pictures! I’ve heard some of the details but somehow don’t think I saw pictures. Sounds like a lot of work but good times mixed in as well! And beautiful scenery!!


  2. Very interesting! We have many friends who live near Walla Walla and some of them work for the Mennonite farmers out there.

    Those hills certainly do have a charm all their own.




  3. Great pictures! Glad you had a good time. I worked for David’s brother years ago, when more of the family lived further West. Enjoy your summer. 🙂


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