A Feature and Feedback

woodland_magazine_cover“I gobbled the book in one sitting, shed some real tears with and for you and Martha along the way, and enjoyed it all tremendously. You are a fine storyteller, and Martha’s story is full of such rich detail . . .”

So said Kathy Westra, a writer for the American Forestry Foundation magazine, Woodland, after reading my book, A Place of Her Own.

An email recently came to me out of the blue from Kathy. She had been assigned to write a feature story for Woodland  (Photo of Autumn 2013 issue at left) about my family’s Oregon tree farm, and about A Place of Her Own, which tells the story of my great-great-grandmother Martha, who bought this farm almost 150 years ago. The foundation, headquartered in Washington, D.C., serves tree farmers across the US, and their magazine, an attractive full-color quarterly, has a nationwide circulation.

I was excited to hear from her, and we had a wonderful phone interview that lasted close to an hour and a half.

Due to her deadlines, my publisher, Globe Pequot, sent her an e-galley of the book. And the above quote is what she wrote to me after she read it. That feels a bit like my first review, and I’m smiling. 🙂

The feature story will appear in the summer issue of Woodland along with pictures. I’m a Certified Tree Farmer, like my father before me, through the American Tree Farm System of the foundation. In fact, to be recertified when I acquired the farm, I had to break away from writing the book about Martha to write a new Tree Farm Management Plan and have a qualified forester visit the property. My thanks to Rick Barnes, local timber specialist, for facilitating all that.

And now, my thanks to Kathy for her story and her positive words.


New Calves

single calfSpring means calving time at the farm. People have marked this season of rebirth since ancient times, and I feel it here. New life stirs everywhere. It pokes up from the ground, tips tree branches, buzzes in the air, and frolics across the grass. This little guy edges closer, wondering about me.

I have come to love walking among the cows in the open field at this time of year. Except for the old milk cow we had when I was a kid, I never experienced such gentle cows. These aren’t mine. I rent pasture to a neighbor, Ed Cooley, and he tends them with care.  He cordons off pasture and moves them almost daily, so he spends time with them, and they become gentle.

I can’t quite touch them. Some, especially the yearlings, will come within a foot or so of an outstretched hand, but if I try to get closer they back away. Still, they circle around me and most keep feeding, contented to have me wander among them. It’s the most peaceful feeling, as if they welcome me to share their contentment on this lovely pasture.


And of course the calves delight me. I watch the mamas. They can get protective. Once a cow chased me after I passed her on a narrow road. Nothing gets your attention quite like the rumble of hoofbeats coming up behind you. Cows are really big. Somehow instinct prevailed and I leapt aside. She butted me with a glancing blow to the rear. If I hadn’t jumped I think she’d have knocked me down and maybe run over me. But she had warned me. They give signals. Heads low, snorts, ground pawing. That cow was having trouble giving birth to a calf and it didn’t go well for her. A rare case for Ed’s cows.

I pay due respect to the mamas, but now they just look at me, curious, perhaps watchful too in return. Maybe that’s part of the thrill. I know they don’t have to be friendly, but they’re welcoming me today, letting me enjoy their presence—and their incredibly cute babies—in peace.

In this season of rebirth, new life touches me with its endearing sweetness, but also with a sense of hope that echoes across time.



Martha’s New Ribbon

Martha has a new ribbon for the cover of her book—a rich brown, like the rich dark earth. M-m-m… Or rich chocolate.

PlaceOfHerOwn_Cover (1)

Marketing went for a bolder look for A Place of Her Own and replaced the white ribbon with the brown.

I’m liking it.

Martha probably knew a lot more about rich earth than rich chocolate. I remember when we planted our hazelnut trees in a field on the bottomland of the farm, nursery stock we got from Martha’s Lane County farm to plant on her Douglas County farm (see “The Tree Link” below). I had been gardening in a lot of marginal soils in other places I’d lived. When we dug into the ground to plant those trees, I just knelt and sifted that rich dark earth through my fingers. I had never planted anything in soil so beautiful.

And now I think I’ll go out to the kitchen and get a small piece of chocolate. Just a little nibble.


Book Launch Parties

With the pub date approaching on Martha’s book, I’m starting to schedule signings and readings.

The Country Launch

The first book launch party will be held close to home on a Sunday afternoon, June 1, from 1 to 3 p.m. in Elkton, Oregon, where I went to school as a kid. It’ll be at the Elkton Community Education Center (ECEC) library. That’s just west of Elkton—by the butterfly pavilion. A lovely venue. We’ll have refreshments, a short reading at 2 p.m., Q&A, plenty of chit-chat, and copies of my book of course, hot off the press, which I’ll happily sign.

The ECEC is always worth a stop. Besides the butterfly pavilion, there’s the reconstructed Fort Umpqua down by the river, a step into the past of Martha’s day, a café for a bite to eat, a lovely gift shop, a nature trail, flower and vegetable gardens, crops typical of the fort’s era, a plant and produce shop with offerings from the onsite gardens, and more. Elktonites are rightly proud of this unique establishment.

So if you’d like to take a Sunday afternoon jaunt for a party, books, and all that the ECEC has to offer, come on out June 1.

The City Launch

A second book launch party will be held Saturday afternoon, June 7, 1 to 3 p.m. in the city of Roseburg at the delightful While Away Books, a friendly bookstore at 932 West Harvard Avenue. They have their own small café and lots of used books at great prices, with a few new books too. It’s in the small shopping center just off Harvard (cross street is Umpqua Street) on your right a couple of blocks or so past the freeway as you head east from town—behind Subway.

We’ll have refreshments there also, reading at 2 p.m., Q&A, more chit-chat, and of course copies of my own book which I can sign for you.

This bookstore really supports local authors, so with that and the great atmosphere it’s a Roseburg gem. If you’re in the Roseburg area, come join us on the 7th of June.

Future Events

More signings are in the works—one at Tsunami Books in Eugene and one at the Douglas County Museum. I’ll post on those soon.

Events, Book News, & Reviews

In the near future I’ll be adding a new “Events” page to my blog to offer information on scheduled events, and a page for “Book News” so you can keep up with what’s going on. When reviews begin coming in I’ll add a “Reviews” page. A calendar of events is now located on the sidebar.