Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
SUN shines on a late September afternoon over Pine Grove scenes bearing the gleam of summer and the burnish of autumn, on Thomsen and Eastside roads.
As of Tuesday, October 2, 2018
A quiet weekday drive down the scenic east flank of the Hood River Valley yields plenty of beautiful vistas and tableaux on a day near the cusp of summer and autumn:
Fruits of the fields and orchards of both seasons cast copious color across the landscape along Thomsen and Eastside roads: Red and gold pears, orange pumpkins, yellow sunflowers.
Most of the fruit is in; the aluminum ladders are still among the trees, but there is little sign of activity in the orchards. At Packer Orchard’s The Farm Place on Thomsen, a few people are buying fruit, but the farm is in a midweek lull. A bicyclist cruises past, enjoying the sunny, windless 70s weather and lack of vehicle traffic.
It’s like the whole day took a day off.
Then, in a field on Thomsen Road, two men and a tractor catch my eye, at Oldfather Farms, where steep hills laden with Bosc pear trees loom over the road.
I turn around and park nearby and watch what transpires: At the base of that hill, Azure Farms workers Zephaniah Selzer and Ralph Morin of Dufur have a practical problem.
Their forklift is broken, so the last of the Bosc bins can’t be vertically lifted onto the flatbed trailer. Stelzer and Morin are improvising with a forklift to coax a bin of Boscs backwards up the trailer ramp.
Stelzer at the wheel, they easily push the bin up the ramps to the truck’s edge; the ramps are plywood framed by metal and as the tractor climbs, the wood starts to crack and slump under the weight. This causes the wheels to catch on the space between the ramp and the truck lip.
No problem: Morin finds a nearby stick, about an inch in diameter and inserts it into the gap. The stick is the just the right size and it cracks under the weight, but provides the bridge needed. Stelzer backs up slightly, and then rolls up and over and the bin slides into place — almost.
Now the bin is still tipped up at a slight angle, the tractor lift prongs pinched under the weight of the bin, unable to ease it to level.
“We need some kind of shim,” Stelzer says; just an inch or so space is needed.
Morin looks around and picks up a tennis ball-sized rock, which he puts under the bin, giving just enough of an angle, and then uses a wrench and elbow grease to release the tension on the lift prongs.
That, and the help of the rock, eases the prongs free, and Stelzer lowers the bin on top of the rock and gently wiggles them free.
Morin and Stelzer smile and joke throughout the process. I complimented them on their resourcefulness in using the most primitive of tools to accomplish a task.
“That’s farming,” Stelzer said.
— Kirby Neumann-Rea