The Pine Grove Auction
For me, my absolute favorite rite of spring is the Fire-fighter's Benefit Auction at Pine Grove, Or., a small orchard community a few miles south of Hood River, Or. The
way they support their local volunteer firefighters is by donating and
auctioning off all sort of stuff on the first Saturday in March. This was
my tenth year, and I wouldn't dream of missing it.
There's never any telling what sorts of things folks will drag out of
their garages and barns to donate to the sale, and driving down to Pine
Grove at dawn is enough to kindle memories of going down stairs early on
The auctioneers start at nine in the morning, one outside selling farm
equipment, construction surplus, tools, shelving, hardware, lawn equipment,
etc., and another inside selling household gear. Eight hours later, the
outside auctioneer ends up by selling a line of vehicles, which is where I
got my 3/4 ton Chevy 4x4 truck, and Bob2 got his 1 ton Chevy flat-bed.
Part of last year's haul
I don't know when the indoor auction ends up, since they're usually still
going strong when I've got our purchases paid for, loaded up and heading
home around dark.
I take great comfort in the saying that "door open, and doors close," and Pine
Grove is one of the times when I get an idea of what doors will be opening
this year. There are lots of different things that could be done at
Windward at any point in our journey, given the needed resources, and one
of the key factors in the year's work plans involves the resources that
turn up at Pine Grove.
Joyce displays a section of
By way of example, we've been debating whether or not to install a wood
stove in the new dining hall. We have an appropriate woodstove, but that's
not where the cost is. I use a woodstove for heat in my quarters, and while
the stove only cost me $40, the stove pipe cost me $280 some ten years ago.
That's a lot for stove pipe, but like one old timer told me, "That's the
cheapest life insurance you'll every buy." The reason it's so expensive is
that it's made from double-walled stainless steel that's filled with an
Because the stove pipe is insulated, it won't cool down the exhaust gases
coming out of the stove; that's good because that keeps the draft up the
pipe going, and more importantly, because the hot interior of the pipe
prevents condensation of tars and unburnt residues within the stove pipe.
That doesn't mean that you don't have to periodically have the stove pipe
cleaned with a chimney brush, but it does go a long way towards keeping it
clean and reducing the chance of a chimney fire.
Please believe me that there are few things scarier than a chimney fire.
The upshot is that UL listed high-tech stovepipes aren't cheap. I was able
to pick up three brand new sections at Pine Grove for $27.50 which turns
out to be almost exactly ten cents on the dollar compared with what they
run new. That nine feet of stovepipe is enough to make the passage through
kitchen ceiling and the roof. We'll still need to purchase a special
filling for going through the roof, but picking up these pieces puts us a
couple hundred dollars ahead on that project.
Another personally exciting acquisition was two 3'x6' sheets of glass for
a dollar. The roof on the dining hall was designed to be the correct angle
for absorbing solar radiation in the spring and fall. The goal is to make
the roof an active energy collector, without having to mount panels at an
offset to the roof.
I'm sure you've seen solar panels that have been mounted on existing
roofs. They usually look like awkward after-thoughts. It's much better,
from at least an aesthetic sense, to incorporate them into the design and
angle of the roof since one of the hallmarks of good design is that it's
both efficient and elegant.
They're also a lot less likely to cause a leak over time, a major concern
anytime you bolt anything onto a roof. A panel that's flat to the roof
isn't going to be rocked by the wind, and anything that rocks back and
forth is going to leak.
Anyway, the glass sheets will be used to create a 6'x6' solar heater for
the kitchen. When the sun is shining, the air inside the solar collection
box will become warmer than the air in the kitchen, and a small fan powered
by a small solar panel will move air from the kitchen, through the
collector and on to the back of the room.
insulated stove pipe
Pia on the milking stand
One Pine Grove acquisition I've already put to use is a sheep stand. These
stands are designed so that the ewe is a foot off the ground, and her head
is restrained so that you can get her spruced up for showing. You've
probably seen sheep very neatly shorn in anticipation of being entered in
the County Fair; this is one of the stands that are used to prep a ewe for
Pia gave birth yesterday morning to a boy lamb, and since she seemed to
have everything well in hand, we just left momma and son together to bond.
When we checked back, we were surprised and saddened to find the lamb dead.
Evidently he had some sort of defect in his umbilical chord that ruptured,
and he bled to death in short order.
Gutsy one-eared Hinde
Dolly and Hinde gave birth to twins, and it's the natural way for mothers
to make hard decisions as to how many lambs they can manage. In both cases,
the boy lambs were more vigorous than their sisters, and the ewes elected
to work with the boy lambs and let the girl lambs go. Unlike what's shown
in Disney movies, real nature is very calculating, and there's no
Heather took one of the girl lambs, and I took the other, and so far so
good. I moved the shearing table and Pia into a holding pen, and explained
to Pia that we were going to set up a milking operation in order to save
the two girl lambs. Pia wasn't very excited about it at first, but now that
she understands that extra grain rations and the best alfalfa hay go with
the job, she's warming to the proposition nicely.
Black-eyed Susy learning to walk
Without fresh milk for the lambs, the odds of saving them are very poor. We have powdered colostrum and milk to mix up and use, since it's not possible for us to not give them our best effort, but it's not anywhere near what a newborn needs in order to get their delicate digestion system up and running.
But this time, thanks to Pia, the babes are getting stronger each day instead of withering away. Susie is up and walking about, and Darla is a little firecracker. This morning, when I threw the alfalfa hay to the nursing ewes, Darla bounded over and jumped on top of the pile of hay, surveyed the world from her perch, and then bounded off in the other direction. I've got to tell you, it would take a person with no heart at all to not fall in love with these these little darlings.
After so many long, dark winter nights, it's simply grand to watch the rebirth of the world, and to get to play midwife to a part of it.
Another strange and useful acquisition from this year's Pine Grove was a fiberglass loading ramp. This is a 12'
long fiberglass structure wide enough to accommodate a hand-truck when you
have things you want to load or unload from a truck. I'm screwing up my
determination towards tackling the chore of taking the garage to the next
level of completion. Much of that will entail getting the two upper 10'x20'
our three bay garage
The garage is thirty feet wide and twenty feet deep, and is organized into
three 10x30' bays. The two side bays have a second floor for storage, but
the center bay is open so that a hoist could be used to snatch an engine
out of a truck, or the backhoe could be brought inside for repair.
Up 'til now, there hasn't been any way to get from one upper storage area
to the other, and what this 12' long loading ramp will do is work as a
bridge between the two storage areas. One thing is certain, we'll never out
grow our need for more storage space.
the loading ramp/bridge
There was a melancholy air to this year's Pine Grove because it's becoming
ever more obvious that the old country ways are passing. Each year the
auction gets smaller, and the number of people attending gets fewer. It's
still worth going to, but it isn't hard to look down the road to the time
when these country auctions will be a thing of the past.
With Pine Grove concluded, it feels like spring is truly here, and it's time to see what the new year will bring. New people, new developments and new activities to be sure, but it's also a time to remember the things of the past that have grown so thin that you almost have to squint your eyes to see them. All too soon, you won't be able to see them at all.