Thursday, February 28, 2013



Here stands the last remaining homestead on the ranch. All the others are long lost to time and nature, though a discerning eye can pick up the occasional remains. The Kirkbride Place was homesteaded by Alfred W. Kirkbride after the turn of the century. When we first moved here I had the inkling to take some photos while the place was still standing. I wanted to track down his kin and share a piece of their family history that they might get a greater sense of their great-great grandfather's life.

Such romantic nostalgia no? Unfortunately from what I could learn, Alfred never married or had any close kin.

I know Alfred was born April 20th, 1887 in Smith Center, Kansas to Orlando Cloud Kirkbride and Sara Ann Kinser. By 1910 he moved to Central Oregon and lived in the local area at a boarding house. Sometime between 1910 and 1917 he moved to the homestead site along the creek. According to his WWI draft registration from 1917 (age 30) he was a single Caucasian man short of stature and stoutly built. He had grey eyes and dark brown hair and was not bald. In 1920, his younger brother Charles E Kirkbride farmed with him.

He died the 30th of March 1936 and is buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in The Dalles.

Here is what remains of the homestead he carved out for himself and lived in for over 20 years:

The Homestead Act of 1862 signed by President Lincoln opened up public lands to homestead claims (homestead claims could be made up through the 1980s in Alaska). If you were the head of the household and over 21 years of age you were eligible for 160 acres of land. To get the deed though, one had to live on the site for five years and "prove up" or make improvements to the property to demonstrate their intent to live there. Many homesteaders failed to make it through the five years and never ended up with a deed to the land they worked. Two doors, two windows and two rooms were part of the requirements for the homestead. A barn had to be raised and fruit trees had to be planted.


The old barn collapsed years ago.


An old apple tree and a massive cottonwood tree still stand ever vigilant.


Today, the canyon bears the name Kirkbride canyon as a testament to the man who was. The name of the creek links back to Kirkbride as well. Tub Springs was so named for the long wooden tub set in the stream to clarify the cool spring water.

Back at the home place, the roof has a hole and is swaybacked as an old horse. A century of contraction and expansion gives the slope a prickly appearance as the nails wriggle free. The windows are broken and the walls sag. In the loft the ravens once built a nest and there is an abandoned packrat midden in the bedroom. Two creaky box springs remain as well as the skeletons of two small wood stoves. Any other scraps of historic nostalgia have been long since carted away. In the kitchen there remains a tattered and curled scrap of wallpaper - the faintest outline of a white fleur-de-lis. It seems such a delicate and dainty adornment for the homestead of a life-long bachelor.



Every year the homestead leans and sags a little more. I don't know how much longer it will remain standing. For now though I feel a sense of reverence and appreciation for the enormous amount of hard work it must have taken to carve out a place like this from scratch by yourself. If Nathan's family had not shared that same determined, homesteader spirit, the ranch would not be the place I call home today.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My silent sentinel


My beloved peacock PaPa passed away last week. He was a gift to me from my grandfather and I feel lucky that he was able to live out the last of his long life in the comfortable retirement of the ranch.

Having only so recently lost another ranch icon, my red rooster, I realize how different my relationship with PaPa was - he didn't have any silly antics. He was just a quiet, ethereal figure that was always there silently watching from the background. Reminded me of an old grandfather watching the children at play, never judging or interfering, just present. Observant. Comforting. On the morning I went in to labor with Thora before we left the ranch, PaPa gave a yowl at the break of dawn, heralding her arrival. That moment will forever be special to me.

The morning after he died, we had a huge windstorm. We keep a collection of his feathers we find sprinkled around the ranch in the summers in a container near the front door. They flap around in the weather no matter rain, sleet or snow but always stay put. During the windstorm all the feathers blew out and scattered across the lawn. One long iridescent feather blew up next to the front door - its' "eye" peering in the door. One last grandfatherly check to see that I was OK, to let me know he was OK too. I didn't know he had passed yet but the sight still made me burst into tears.

I don't think he was sick, just old and it was his time. He found a warm spot in the sand under Lloyd's porch, tucked his head under his wing, went to sleep and never woke up - a good death to end his good life of 27 or so years. When Nathan found him he looked just like he did when he curled up asleep in the sun under the rose bush.

We gave him an honorific burial - set him on a pyre of branches and left him to the sky. His new feathers were in full glory, so shiny and meticulously managed, ready for the coming breeding season. I know that for years to come I will find his feathers sprinkled across the ranch, caught in fences, tangled in the grass, woven into nests. It will be sad I know, but will be just another reminder that special friends are always in our hearts no matter how long ago they departed.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The ole red rooster

Our old red rooster, affectionately know as Inspector Doodles passed away.


He was the nicest (and biggest) rooster I've ever met. He was one of our Freedom Ranger meat birds from a few summers ago but was so social and friendly that he earned a place as a pet here at the ranch. When the Freedom Ranger birds were little, it was always a sea of red chickens everywhere you looked.




When the birds were younger, it was hard to tell if there was one red chicken that was particularly friendly or if the whole batch was full of docile birds.


We noticed that this one had a crooked toe and put a band on his leg for identification. It was always the banded rooster with the janky toe that came to visit. He followed you around, "helped" in the barnyard and much to Nathan and Lloyd's chagrin - was always making himself at home in the shop.




He was sweet and friendly - never minded being picked up and was content to sit at your feet and be petted.



He loved the mystery that a bucket brings. If he saw you across the barnyard with a bucket he would hurry on over to inspect it.


He was a sweet bird and definitely one of our barnyard icons. I know I have said it before, but because I live so rurally and may only leave the ranch one or two times a month, the animals do become my friends and coworkers. It is always hard to look for a familiar face in the barnyard crowd only to remember that he won't be there this morning waiting to inspect the bucket I carry. I'll sure miss that ole red rooster.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nathan's idea of gardening... with diesel!

Clearing out a juniper thicket girdled by rabbits.


Who needs loppers when you have fire?

Monday, February 11, 2013

First calf of the season

And it is Margaret with a red, white-faced heifer...


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Aww, you guys!

We didn't watch the Superbowl (nor do we need a new truck - though Nathan may say otherwise) but it is nice to know that we are in your thoughts.

Link to YouTube as the video does not embed well at this size


It is such a delight to be YOUR farmers!