You could argue I live in a valley. The McKenzie River courses through the mountains outside my window and leaves behind a narrow fertile swath of land I now call home. Just around the corner, an organic farm has a roadside stand frequented by locals and travelers looking for fresh produce on their way over the mountain. Small farms and ranches dot the landscape. There are pick your own blue berries, holly and Christmas trees sites, and even a lavender farm started up not too long ago.
Up early this morning and full of energy, I decide to pass on breakfast before my walk. As I head out, my neighbor Len is puttering in his yard, watering his plants.
“Morning!” he says, and drops his hose. He walks over to my herb garden and points out the cute bright red baby strawberries, ripe for the plucking. We share our tiny crops with each other, and I snag a few for us both. So French, adorable, and candy-like.
“There are more baby tomatoes,” he advises and hands me a couple which I drop into my shorts pocket. “Green beans are ready; don’t forget to grab some since I won’t eat them.” It took me several conversations with Len to realize he has no teeth.
“Great! I’ll be over after my walk.” I’m already thinking of a tempting recipe for Green Beans and Salsa I’ve wanted to try. We chat a bit longer and catch up on the latest gossip. He mentions one of his buddies wants to walk with me but can’t keep up. I share that I walk to get my heart rate up, and his pal would rather talk than walk. It’s time to press on.
This is my first walk since returning from my ten day trip to Texas, and my senses are already approaching overload. I cut through the tall trees and head toward the path along the property. Normally I would hardly catch the aromatic scent of pine; but now, the perfume is so intense, I can feel it in my throat. How could I not notice that?
At the property line, this year’s crop of blackberry vines are drooping dangerously low – weighted down from the extreme mass of fat berries. I stop in awe; so irresistible, I snag a few for sampling. Sweet, warm and juicy! This calls for another taste. I pull off another handful to savor.
I walk along the canal which flows out of the fish hatchery up river from us. Colorful flowers are abundant on both sides of the levee: tall stately thistles bloom amid Queen Anne’s lace, yellow daisies, and purple wildflowers. The hazelnut trees to one side are looking good. Judging from their husks, it won’t be long before they will be ready for picking.
One of my neighbors is standing on the bank, casting his rod into the canal. He waves and tells me he has caught several cut throats already this morning. This is all about catch-and-release, so I heartily congratulate him. I’d rather hear about a trout with a sore mouth than in someone’s frying pan.
Up ahead, noisy crows are perched atop a row of blueberry bushes neatly planted along the organic farm’s fence line. Worthy of investigation, I move closer and note the bushes are loaded with plump, blue globes of goodness. Clearly, an informational taste is in order, since these are my first of the season. OMG! These must be the best ever! I join the crows and have at it.
As I slowly get back on the trail, gingerly cupping another handful of berries, I am reminded of my own words uttered earlier to Len. What was that about heart rate, and fast walking? I’m not even a quarter of the way through my walk! I’m way behind!
The good news is that I’m not late for breakfast.