Home on the Range

Friends! It seems like forever, but it has been a tumultuous time. RK and I have been finding our way in Central Oregon, which has a different kind of pace, style, and energy than we are used to. Rest assured, bikes are being ridden, trails are being run, fish are being moved, and we are enjoying the great outdoors as much as ever.

What has changed? We are the proud owners of a vintage 1981 passive solar monopoly house sitting squarely on a few acres a stone’s throw from some sweet singletrack in a ponderosa pine forest. It’s not the least updated house we have owned and maybe not the one with the most junipers (at least per square foot). While there is much work to do, it is the kind of work that blends vision, creativity, practicality, and education and we are stoked.

The barn, previously occupied by 21-year-old Levi, the speckled horse, will need a fourth wall to eventually become my studio. The scraped-bare dust and cheatgrass field will require some landscaping — we want to encourage bees, butterflies, owls, and bats to make their homes nearby. We hope to see coyotes, birds, deer, and stars. We want to build a pump track in the paddock. For now, the piles of horse poop left behind are a constant temptation for Emma the dog.

About a year ago we wrote up a list of life priorities and number one on that list was “outside time.” From our new house, we walk 200 steps to an easement that leads directly to the forest trails. One of these goes for 24 miles through a landscape of buttes to a volcano. We have to leash the dogs on the way to the trail so they don’t chase deer out of the neighbors’ yards.

Of course, it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Public land is for the public and besides the mountain bikers, hikers, horse riders, and trail runners, there are people out shooting guns at a couple of the buttes. Not only the pop of gunshots, there are also loud boom-like explosions. Must be fun to blow up a butte. I have heard reports of mountain lions in the area (yay! but also intimidating for someone who likes to run alone in the dark). Our neighbor has at least a half dozen Unimogs, which may or may not be no big deal.

If each place we go is like making a new acquaintance, buying a house in a new place is more like committing to a friendship. I can’t honestly say that Central Oregon feels like home. Not yet, anyway. For six months we have felt unmoored and humble, but that’s no reason to not make a new friend.

Last night we sat in our sunroom and through the wall of windows we could see the red light of Mars and the swath of light that is the Milky Way. Soft house lights in the distance defined our community. We listened to wind echo quietly through the chimney, the only sound except for the snores of two tired dogs.

Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA