Stepping back

Sometimes it is healthy to step back from your daily life and do something different for a while. I just made it back to Portland after a three-week workation in Eastern Washington, where I helped my family finish wheat harvest. Harvest is an annual ritual that helps me refresh my mind, as I work long hours in wide open spaces.

I love my hometown of Dayton (pop. 2,500). It is the archetypical small town. Founded in the second half of the 19th century, Dayton has a historic Main Street with a variety of shops, restaurants and a restored movie house that also hosts community theatrical productions. A mead works and a high-end chocolatier also recently opened there.

Even though I return there regularly, the first day or two on the ground is always a culture shock. Compared to Portland, everything is so…quiet. But that’s also one of the best parts about it.

One thing I would change about Dayton is the overall quality of coffee available. When I was home in May, I stopped in a café one afternoon to write. The cappuccino I ordered was, to put it bluntly, bad. I didn’t want to hurt the barista’s feelings, so I kept my mouth shut (probably a bad reason, but it was the rationalization I used). After all, I am just someone who writes about coffee, not an actual barista. Besides, it wasn’t her fault she didn’t know how to make good coffee. She had not been properly trained to do so. (Café owners, please train your baristas!)

This last visit, I didn’t make time to look for coffee. In fact, I barely even went into town. Instead, I spent most of the time in the cab of a John Deere combine, driving around in circles (insert metaphor for my life here), harvesting wheat, barley, canola and mustard. We had a good run—great weather and no major breakdowns—and at the end of my time, I felt I had helped them accomplish something. That always relaxes my mind, as do scenes like these:


My apologies for being a little inconsistent with the posts. When I got back to Portland, I found out that my family still had a week of harvest left. I don't know how many read my earlier post about harvest, but I couldn't pass up the chance to go home to help finish. We have been working hard because  the end is in sight, so there has not been much time left over to write. If the weather holds, we'll be done tomorrow. Here are a couple of pictures from the last few days.

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Harvest and the HFC

Today I want to take a short break from China to introduce you to the HFC—the Hutchens Family Circus. As some of you know I grew up on a farm near Dayton, in eastern Washington State. My father and my brother still farm there, and there are certainly times when I miss being there. Wheat harvest, happening right now, is one of those times.

We endearingly call ourselves the HFC because over the years we have  been through many crazy undertakings and mishaps. Nothing illegal, mind you, but sometimes stuff happens.  I have a long list of stories tucked away that will make a good book when I take the time to write them up. One of the latest HFC “performances” was so compelling that I had to write about it. It might be the best show that the HFC has ever put on. Unfortunately, I missed the whole thing. Maybe by writing up the story and sharing it with you, I can participate by extension.

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