View From Our Place
Rolling up my sleeves and digging in the dirt on our Oregon farm is the life I dreamed of as a kid.
Meet Tawny Nelson, winner of the Our Country Home Contest.
Iwas an ocean-loving girl, born in the sunny state of California. However, when I was about 4 years old, my family uprooted and moved to Washington state, where for a short time we had the privilege of living one field over from where my maternal grandparents lived.
During those two years of my young life, the country grew roots in me deeper than the great depths of the ocean. The warm soil on my toes; the lush green, rain-ripened grass fields; trees with great limbs for climbing; old red barns and sweet carrots pulled fresh from the earth are just a few of the things that have never left my blood.
Three decades later, I finally get to live on my own piece of paradise on a little mountain in Oregon. My husband, Ben, and I farm hay on 80 acres, where we are raising our 20-month-old son, Michael, to be a true country kid.
Our home is located in the small town of North Plains, Oregon, near the Dixie Mountain Grange hall, in the middle of the Willamette and Tualatin valleys. This area has rich, fertile land where folks raise livestock and grow grass seed, hay, grapes and other fruit, pumpkins, nuts and Christmas trees. Multigeneration farms stand side by side with new ones.
After spending so many years in cities, I’ve had to learn how to farm and garden. Driving a tractor to cut, rake and bale hay was completely foreign to me. And,
honestly, although Ben is a great teacher, it’s still intimidating to work on such a large vehicle.
I always longed to grow my own vegetable garden like the one I used to raid at Grandma’s, but I didn’t know how. I have gotten guidance from Ben and my in-laws on how to plant seeds and fertilize, and on how much to water and when to stop watering—but there’s also been a lot of Googling and trial and error. I’m still always learning how to garden and how to can.
When it comes to flowers, I seem to have a black thumb (which I do intend to fix), but I’m in a constant state of euphoria when I roll up my sleeves and dig in the earth, care for little chickens with my dog pals by my side, cook fresh-picked vegetables, walk along country lanes, ride four-wheelers all over the mountain or sit by a campfire.
Our house sits squarely in the middle of rolling hay fields that are surrounded by trees, secluding the fields from the outside world in their own little paradise. In our yard, Ben hung a swing from the shade-giving branches of a black walnut tree because of the swing I cherished at my grandparents’ place as a child.
Here, the elk meander in and out, sometimes only a few feet from our house. Bright daffodils and orchards give us a grand floral show each spring. I love the slight elevation that can blanket us in snow in the winter, when the townsfolk usually only get rain.
“The country grew roots in me deeper than the great depths of the ocean.” – TAWNY NELSON
I love our serene ponds, tucked into the swaying green fields, where a duck couple or two may decide to rest for the night.
I love the hand-built red barn, which looks beautiful in a blanket of dense fog; or shining in glory in the sunrise; or surrounded by the flaming yellows, oranges, reds, and pinks of sunset; or covered in fresh white snow, set in the expanse of hay fields in contrast with the bright blue sky.
I love my in-laws’ history with this place, which is nearing its century mark. Almost everything here was made and cherished by a previous generation. My husband’s paternal grandfather bought this land in 1945 from the original homesteaders. They then cleared the fields of old-growth timber by hand. Ben’s dad remembers his father dynamiting each and every stump, afterward smoothing the dirt for hay and, at one time, also for strawberries.
I love the rickety old shack where pigs were bred; the barn’s milking stations; the machine shop.
I love the dip in our lawn where the farm’s original dirt-floor house used to stand. I love the newer, not-dirt-floor house built in the ’50s that Ben and I renovated together to make our own.
And I love that our son gets to grow up here, Lord willing, as the next generation to enjoy the beauty of creation, learning the values of hard-but-satisfying work, the faith and patience it takes to wait for crops to grow, the compassion and care for neighbors and little animals, the reward in feeding and helping those around us. This truly is a piece of heaven, and we are blessed to enjoy it together.
Michael and his buddy, Elsa, peek into the barn to spy on the chickens.
Elk often graze a few feet from Tawny’s home.
Tawny and Ben show their son, Michael, some outdoor fun—fishing on the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon.
The Nelsons grow hay on 80 fertile acres that have been in the family for almost a century.
Clockwise from top left: Evergreen violets nearly make a carpet of golden sunshine. Delicate western trillium arrives around Easter, and redflowering currant and purple oaks toothwort color the fields.