28 July 2007

Hosting the Massman Family Reunion!

As you can probably tell from this blog, we always have things going on, particularly in the summer. However, there was one event this year that stood out from the rest: The Massman Family Reunion. Hosted at our house. The reaction we get from people when we would tell them that we're hosting 30+ members of Corinne's mother's family at our house for 5 days was fairly consistent: wide eyes of disbelief. You're doing what?

We spent quite a lot of time organizing and preparing for the event. In February we checked out the Trout Lake lodging options so that we could make recommendations first-hand. (We were NOT going to have 30+ people stay in our house for 5 days; we're not that crazy.) We put together a list of possible activities and made plans for a few group events, such as a White Salmon rafting trip. We hired a professional photographer to capture the event. We tried to get as many details nailed down ahead of time as possible so that when the event arrived, we could enjoy the weekend.

Trout Lake has more lodging options that I would have expected, considering its size; the heavy summer tourism season must have something to do with that. But the summer books early. Thankfully there were still enough rooms at the Trout Lake Motel, Serenity's, and several other B&Bs to house everyone. We also had 1-2 campers parked in the yard over the course of the weekend, and a Port-A-John tucked away between the trees (to save our septic system!)


There is a lot to do in our area, and we knew better than to try to make a schedule of events to cover every day. Instead we organized a few key events throughout the weekend, and provided information on other local activities that people could do as they pleased. The scheduled events included a White Salmon rafting trip, a photo-shoot with a professional photographer, and an "all-hands" home-cooked dinner each night. People took good advantage of the outdoor opportunities, including horseback-riding, biking, and wine tasting, as well as croquet, horseshoes, bocci, and late night card games at home.

While there are a plethora of places to stay while in Trout Lake, there is really only one restaurant. So Corinne decided that we should take a bold approach: cook all of the dinners in our kitchen. The two of us weren't about to do all of the meals ourselves, though, so each dinner was assigned 4 meal preparers and 2 cleaners. I thought it would be a bit of a challenge for everyone to come up with a meal that could feed 35 people but still be prepared and cooked in our normal-sized kitchen, but everything worked out perfectly. Over the 5 days we had fabulous meals: curried chicken and rice; spicy breaded fish sandwiches; baked meatballs; and pasta with peppers and onions. And on the days when you weren't cooking, all you did was show up and eat!

We hired professional photographer Michael Peterson for a few hours to take photos of the reunion. He took both posed portraits and lots of fun photos. Between Michael's professional shots and the photos from the cameras of the attendees, we ended up with about 3.5G of photos! Needless to say, we couldn't post them all here. A sampling of some of Michael's candids is below. We particularly liked the ones of us running through the neighbors field (thanks, Carl!) and the "kids" jumping off of our rail fence (which now needs a post replaced - oops).

But alas, soon the weekend was over and everyone was traveling home. After a trip to the dump and some cleaning, we returned to our normal lives. How boring.

- Mike (& Corinne)

23 July 2007

Danger in the Country

The other day I was out working in the garden, and suddenly this bear jumped out and bit my hand! No, wait - I think it was two bears. I escaped only by wrestling one of them to the ground, while the other was so afraid of what I might do to him that he ran off in to the woods.

Yeah, nobody at work bought that one, either.

Truth is, I cut my hand on some sheet metal on the case of a computer. Not nearly as glamorous or exciting, now, is it? So on Sunday afternoon I drove 30 minutes to the local hospital where I got 5 stitches at the base of my middle finger, along with a tetanus shot for good measure.

Lesson: accidents happen when and where you least expect them.

- Mike (& Corinne)

21 July 2007

Festivals Galore

Our favorite New England transplants now living in Portland came back to the Gorge these past two weekends. Last weekend we met Jamie, Torsten, Katja and Marta in Hood River on the Fruit Loop, a scenic drive through Hood River's farmlands. We stopped at a few different farms, including Hood River Lavender for pick-your-own lavender.

The following weekend was the Trout Lake Arts Festival, held literally right down the street from our house. So we enjoyed the arts festival then followed it with a relaxing summer BBQ at our place. A classic summer weekend.


- Mike (& Corinne)

10 July 2007

Irrigation Irritation

Irrigation is both a blessing and a curse. Without irrigation, everything around us would turn brown and crispy (and highly flammable!) in the summer, since our area gets no rain from July through September. However, irrigation systems also need continual maintenance when things go wrong. Well, this year things went wrong for us.

It all starts last fall. We were still irrigating the garden well into October when the first frost arrived. This signaled the end of the garden, but we were still watering the lawn. So we (I) didn't turn off the irrigation and drain the system, preparing for winter. The next thing I knew, it was December, the ground was covered with snow, and the irrigation system hadn't been drained. Oops. I did open all of the valves during a brief warm spell in January, but I knew it was probably a bit too late to avoid any repercussions.

Irrigation pump
foot valve
Come spring, when we turned the system on there was no water pressure. So we walked the irrigation lines and discovered a valve that had cracked. One trip to the supply store later and the valve was replaced, but we still had very low pressure. More investigation uncovered two more repairs needed, including one involving PVC cement. After all of the obvious repairs were complete, when we turned the pump on we had some pressure, but it would only last for ~5 minutes before dropping enough that the underground Rainbird sprinklers in the yard would stop spinning.

We spent many hours trying to isolate the source of the problem. We drained our settling pond; we cleaned out the pump box, which was full of accumulated silt; we replaced a number of broken pressure gauges; we pulled out and inspected the mesh filters on the valves; we poured over the folders of irrigation info from the Clausens. No luck.

It was now late June/early July, and our desperation was intensifying as each day got hotter and the garden and yard languished under only occasional watering from sprinklers connected to the house. In a fit of either inspiration or despiration, Corinne decided that we needed to pull out and clean the mesh filters.


Even though the filters looked fine, each hole in the fine mesh had been clogged with small particles of silt. After the screens were cleaned with a brush, the lawn sprinklers worked fine. Everything worked fine. In the end, hours and hours of work went into a fix that took 20 minutes.

I think this is what they call a "learning experience". We understand much better how the whole system works, and I also have a better appreciation for the timeliness of preparing the system for winter. We do still have at least one problem to fix, though. There is a spot in the yard where water pools on the surface, which we imagine can only be caused by a leak underground. But that is a project for another day.

- Mike (& Corinne)

07 July 2007


Since our windsurfing lessons last August have we attempted to windsurf only once - and that time we didn't even end up going in the water since we had forgotten some critical equipment. This year wasn't looking much better, given that it is already July and we haven't been in yet!

"Intermediate" board
Thankfully our friends Kris and Amy motivated us to join them Saturday. (They had asked us to go earlier in the week, but we were still embroiled in trying to resolve our irrigation problems; more on that in another post.) When I asked Kris if he had ever been windsurfing before, his response was: "I don't even know what an uphaul is and have never worn a wetsuit." This should be fun.

True "Beginner" board
We only ended up with one set of gear between the four of us, and it turned out to be not quite beginner enough for our collective skill level. Beginner boards are wide, have a center fin, and will usually float no matter what you do; the board we had would float, but it wasn't terribly stable. ("Expert" boards don't even float - you have to be constantly moving across the water to even use them!) So we took turns struggling for probably an hour before an instructor from one of the local windsurfing shops took pity on us and gave us a set of beginner gear to borrow for a while. We still weren't very good, but at least it was more fun.

With any luck we'll be able to get out at least once more this summer. Summer is just so dang busy!

- Mike (& Corinne)

01 July 2007

Clausen Memorial Potluck

Half of the incredible couple who built River Ford Farm has died. Victor Clausen was 83 when he passed away in February after several battles with his health. We were sad to hear the news, and we attended a moving ceremony in Vancouver, WA where he and Phyllis have lived for the past year. (We knew we had arrived at the right location when the sign said "Home for the Liberal Religious Spirit!")

Vic and Phyllis used to have a potluck at their place (now our place) in Trout Lake every July 4th, so we offered to Phyllis that we could host a potluck and memorial service, so that all of their Trout Lake friends would have an opportunity to celebrate Vic and show support for Phyllis. It would also give us a chance to meet more of our Trout Lake neighbors.

The whole community pitched in for the event. Our neighbors Dean and Rosie are the hosts of the annual Trout Lake Arts Festival, so they are well prepared for large events and brought their grill and an ample supply of gourmet sausages; Tom and Bonnie brought tables and chairs. The other 40 or so people brought all sorts of good food and stories about Vic and Phyllis.

One of the most amazing things for us to see were the early photos of our property. When they bought this land in the 1970s, it was just a flat piece of land with absolutely nothing on it. Everything that is here now - house, thousands of trees, out buildings, irrigation, etc - was put here by Vic and Phyllis, either by their planning or their direct laboring. Sometime in the near future we hope to spend some time with Phyllis and scan some of those photos for ourselves.

We've only known Vic and Phyllis for a year and a half, but they are an inspiration to us in many ways. We'll miss Vic.

- Mike (& Corinne)