I have been in this home north of Spokane for 22 years now. In the previous 50 years, my longest stay in one place was a house in Spokane where I tormented my mother for 20 years. Mom never could understand why I didn’t want to sit home with her on the sofa, eat popcorn and watch Lawrence Welk on Saturday night.
Nor could she understand my passion for hunting and fishing, or why every time I cleaned pheasants she had to call a plumber to get the kitchen sink to drain again. She certainly couldn’t understand why I had to have a bird dog pup, or why that pup wouldn’t use just one spot to “do his business.”
It is still winter at my house, but today, as I walk with my two dogs up to get the paper, I am on beautiful bare ground for the first time since December. I make note of numerous changes on my acreage – some good and some not so good.
The five rows of seedlings I planted along the 400-foot driveway are mature trees and bushes now, providing excellent habitat for quail and pheasants, a buffer against the snowy winds of winter.
The turkeys have made a mess of the driveway this winter, especially where I put out food for other birds. Early on, they scratched through the ice down to the gravel, and the melting snow has been carving miniature canyons, washing sand and green turkey “deposits” into my yard.
On the other side of the drive, the barn where I house the dogs didn’t fare so well either. Some of the roofing came off during the winter, the door warped, and the lean-to on the north side collapsed under winter snows onto my dog trailer.
Fearful the entire structure would collapse, I began letting Jill (the Lab) and Lucy (the Brittany) stay in the house at night. Now there is enough dog hair under the bed to knit a sweater, and I, the man who used to say I would never let a dog in my house, allows Lucy to sleep with me.
On the same side of the driveway, the fence around the pasture is also in disrepair. It gets worse every year now that it no longer holds my daughter Katie’s horse. I planted it in blue stem wheat grass after Katie struck out on her own. It is matted down now, but a new crop will soon sprout, and by mid May there will be pheasants nesting there.
Near the top of the driveway, the pine trees are growing with abandon on both sides. Only a few mature ones survived a fire that raged through the area many years ago, but like dandelions, their offspring are everywhere. The deer like to bed in the thickets now, so I’ll probably leave the trees unthinned.
At the end of the driveway is the mailbox. I retrieve the paper and start back down, passing the metal sign at the fork leading to my son’s house. The sign says THE LIERES. It used to belong to an uncle, but when he died and his wife remarried, I inherited it.
She tried to sell it first, but there is not a lot of garage-sale dickering on used “THE LIERES” signs. I planted daffodil bulbs around the base of it last October. If the deer don’t get them, their optimistic yellow blooms will soon be proof this winter is finally over.