PHOTOS BY FLAVIA POTENZA A list of farm chores was waiting for Flavia Potenza on a five-day Oregon farm getaway. Using soil-building techniques of Hugelkultur, Flavia, sporting her â€śCinderella boots,â€ť gathered moss-covered logs from a forest of Douglas firs to add as a border for the tomato patch and flower garden.
As long as Iâ€™ve lived in Topanga (45 years) and as much as I love it and the community it inspires, once I was fully vaccinated and received an invitation to visit erstwhile Topanga resident, Antony Bartlett (Topangaâ€™s Littlest Theater) and his partner, Angelica, at their farm, I booked a flight and fled for a full five days to the environs of Eugene, Oregon.
Antony had a list of farm chores waiting for me. The evening I arrived, there was light enough to walk the perimeter of the property to check barbed wire fencing and mark breaks where the cows might get out. We all had a light dinner, a nice chat, and retired early.
The next morning, I was outfitted in what I called my â€śCinderella boots,â€ť rubber boots meant to slog through meadows, swamps, a forest of Douglas fir trees, and around cow pies lying in wait. My feet slipped easily into them just like Cinderellaâ€™s into the glass slippers. Except I wasnâ€™t going to the ball. While Angelica tended to her studies, Antony and I were off to do fence-mending, armed with a coil of barbed wire, cutters, and a ratchet to pull the wires tight.
PHOTOS BY FLAVIA POTENZA A list of farm chores was waiting for Flavia Potenza on a five-day Oregon farm getaway. The farmhouse is surrounded by an ornamental garden with fragrant lilacs and pink magnolias. A nearby pond is part of a recirculating watering system and full of salamanders, box turtles, and frogs.
Our first attempt was clumsy, and we wasted six feet of wire redoing our mistake. Instead of being upset, I couldnâ€™t help laughing. â€śI am so happy,â€ť I bellowed. From there, the second mend was easy, and the third was witnessed by a herd of six curious cows. When Grandpa bull decided to charge at us, Antony spread his arms and with a great shout stopped them in their tracks. A couple more charges and we moved to the other side of the fence. The next day, I would be feeding them carrots as if I had always been their best friend.
We planted the tomato and basil patch, not sure if they would survive the deer. We planted anyway, using techniques of Hugelkultur, as described in The Canyon Chronicle (â€śHugelkultur: Learning to Love Carbon,â€ť December 11, 2020). The three of us laid out the flattened cardboard moving boxes over the grass. Since it was on a slope, the smart thing to do was retrieve rotting logs from the forest for a border to retain the soil. Then came layers of twigs, compost and mulch covered with rich soil and the planting. The mound would, over time, decompose and enrich the soil around them long after the tomatoes and basil found their way to the kitchen. We later planted a flower bed using the same technique.
Antony taught the regular Tai Chi classes that he continues with his Topanga students over Zoom. I would be the in-person novice to help him demonstrate the martial aspect of Tai Chi. No one was hurt, and we were introduced to and cautioned about the lethal potential of the moves. I also benefitted from personal training sessions, the last of which was learning to stand on uneven ground and kickâ€¦ a treeâ€¦ not as easy as it sounds.
PHOTOS BY FLAVIA POTENZA A list of farm chores was waiting for Flavia Potenza on a five-day Oregon farm getaway. Bessie loves her carrots, but the day before, when Grandpa bull charged at us, she and her cowmates were right behind him as we mended fences around the pasture.
Overall, the physical activity in a bucolic setting with dear friends, laughter, and good conversation was a great relief from the rigors of managing a small community newspaper. I never slept so well and would leave refreshed and revived, pleased that my body was still strong enough to do productive physical labor. The challenge now is to bring it home with the intent of finding the balance between that and the creative, yet stressful business of publishing. It seems that the fence gates I climbed over required balance. Could I apply that to my lifestyle?
â€śWhy,â€ť you may ask, â€śdidnâ€™t you open the gate and walk through?â€ť Some gates you couldnâ€™t open. Besides, it was much more fun meeting the challenge.
Speaking of Gardens, readers may delight in Kelly Radinskyâ€™s experience with her next-door neighbor when they agreed to grow a garden together (Pages 8-9). As a talented photographer, she also provided the stunning cover for this issue.