The first year |

The first year

by Karen Brier

It was just a year ago that we first saw our house in Ruhenstroth. The hot August sun was sinking behind the Sierra and bathing the house in a soft glow. The trees were blowing in the evening breeze and I felt and instant click of recognition. This was our house. The house has now become a home and we can’t imagine living anywhere else. Our mornings start early as we literally get up with the chickens. We give them food and fresh water; scatter a little grain for scratching and dried meal worms for extra protein. Then I head over to the garden to pull weeds for a chicken “salad bar.”

Other than providing green nutrition for the chickens, I haven’t been super successful with the garden this year. A month in Alaska during the early growing season put me behind and we came back to a heat wave that has kept things interesting. Lots of mint, oregano, thyme and basil. A few strawberries, raspberries and one tiny golden tomato. But as the weather cools down my potato bed is taking off, corn is growing and might make it before first frost — if I’m lucky. I even saw a few tiny shoots of asparagus and carrots and have ambitious plans for frost protection, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

A big challenge for us has been the aphids. They love the fruit trees and between the leaf eaters and the late frost, there will be no tree fruits this year. But we’re in it for the long haul, so we planted a couple of apple trees this year and next year we’ll get the ladybugs out earlier and keep an eye peeled for the tiny but voracious pests, as well as tarps and covers for late frosts.

But with the challenges have come so many blessings. We love our mornings and evenings on the porch, watching the light change as the sun rises and sets. We love the trees and the grass and the amazing flower gardens. We love the view with our mountains east and west. But best of all, are the new friends we’ve made.

It’s been a learning year for all of us. How to garden in the high desert. Dealing with coyotes and mice and snakes. We’ve learned so much about solar panels and irrigation systems and chickens and gardening. Along the way we’ve made a few changes to the house. Refinishing the porch and painting it that lovely mocha color was the best. And over the months, we’ve painted and decorated about half the rooms inside. I’m sure we’ll get to the rest someday.

Despite all the work, we’ve found time for fun. Skiing and snowboarding last winter, kayaking and swimming at the Lake this summer. As the weather gets cooler, I’m looking forward to a camping trip or two. And someday, I know, we’ll even finish unpacking.

Reach Karen Brier at, or 790-0072.