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Getting to Know Eugene
I've been in Eugene, Oregon for a few weeks now, so I suppose it's time to post another update. I've got pics this time! Given that the updates over the last few months have been nothing but big walls of text, I figured it was about time. I'm staying in a little cabin up on a hill just outside the south side of town. The lady who owns the cabin has a lot of improvement projects for her land going on, so I've been able to earn a little extra income by helping with that. Also, there are sheep! Well, and llamas and cows and chickens, but the sheep are the focus of the last part of this post.

When I was making my plans to come out west, I figured I was leaving at a decent time. It was the end of April, and I figured that meant colleges were going to be wrapping up classes soon and a ton of apartments would be coming onto the market as the students went home for the summer. Come to find out, though, the big school out here in Eugene doesn't wrap up classes until mid-June. How they can manage to keep students' attention that long is a mystery to me (my guess is that they don't.) However, it also means that housing wasn't as readily available as I had hoped.

Fortunately, a friend of mine from my museum exhibit job pointed me to a listing on a website called www.airbnb.com where people list rooms or properties they have available for people to stay in. The listing was for a "small, cute, rustic country cabin." Not only was it pretty close to town, it also offered a cheap monthly rate AND allowed dogs! Given that living in small spaces isn't really a problem for me (and is actually preferred at this point) I went ahead and contacted the owner.

The lady who owns the place, Michele, built the cabin and stayed in it while she worked on her main home. She asked me (and Barney) to come out and see the place before we agreed on anything, not only to see if we liked it but also to see if she was okay with us. That makes sense, as the cabin is pretty close to the main home, and if you're going to have someone basically living out your front door for a month, it's best to make sure it's not a person with whom you'll constantly be butting heads. So, we checked it out.

It was cute, as you can see. There's a little 2-burner stove and a microwave for cooking, a good kitchen sink, a fair amount of storage for all the stuff I brought, and (most importantly) a wifi connection. Also, it has a pretty view out of the front windows.

The property is up on a hill overlooking a nearby community college. There's an overgrown orchard one one side, lots of trees all around, an llamas (llamas!) out the back. The llamas belong to the neighbors, though. All Michele had at that time were chickens and a dog. Had, mind you - that past tense is important.

So after I unloaded my car Michele started filling me in on all of what there is to do around town, and what kind of places I might want to check out, where the deals were, and stuff like that. She was VERY helpful! She also seemed to have a LOT of projects going on at her property. I noticed a garden pond liner leaning up against the cabin, and she said she was planning on hiring someone to put a pond in near the house. Given that I already had pond-installing experience from the one my folks and I put in a few summers ago, we both figured I would be an excellent candidate for the job.

This, of course, led to a few other jobs, including bracing and filling a planter on the side of the cabin...

...and putting up a some fencing and installing a few gates.

What were all those gates and fencing for, you ask? Sheep! Michele wanted to get sheep for her property, and knew of a person nearby who had two sheep she wanted to get rid of. Perfect match, right? The one problem, though, were that we had to catch and transport the sheep ourselves. Also? The sheep were wild, had big 'ol horns, and hadn't been shorn in over 2 years. They were not about to come willingly. Fortunately, we had some help.

You know, for big, bounding piles of fluff, those sheep can sure be pretty agile! We had the help of the sheep owner's son and his friend, though, so we were finally able to pin them down. Surprisingly, once we caught them, the sheep weren't that difficult to manage. I was expecting more of a struggle out of them. Of course, I grew up in a suburb where the largest fauna we would encounter would be an exceptionally well-fed squirrel, so my knowledge of sheep and their habits is woefully limited.

In the end, it was the owner's son who tackled both sheep, but I take credit for grabbing one by the horns, lifting its chin, and getting it to walk forward. I even got it to leap over a ditch while still keeping it under control! Thank you, Internet, for your reams of expertise! We loaded the sheep up into dog kennels (which look too small for those sheep until you realize that you can stick your hand into them darn near up to your ELBOW and still not reach their bodies because of all the wool,) and took them back to the property.

On the way back, Michele and I were talking about how the two of us were going to get them out of the truck by ourselves. I didn't feel like it was a big concern. They looked huge, but didn't feel as heavy as I thought they would. Michele was still worried, but I felt confident. In retrospect, I guess I had it coming.

We were able to get the kennel out of the truck without any problems, and we used a dolly to wheel the first one over to the enclosure. We dropped it off the wheels and I bent over to lift the front edge over the board along the bottom of the gate. Michele, still concerned, spoke up:

"Be careful that you don't throw out your..."

...yeah. I'm sure you know what happened just then. JUST as I got it over the board, and JUST as she said it, I threw out my back. No standing, no bending, no kneeling for me... just lying on the ground in the fetal position for the next few minutes. Now, I've thrown out my back before. Twice before, actually, so this isn't new territory for me. It doesn't make it any easier to handle at the moment, though. Anyone who's thrown out their back knows that it takes a couple days for decent mobility to return, and even then it's still weak for a while.

And, honestly, I kinda had it coming. I was being stupid about it. Instead of getting down on my knees to take the stress off of my back, I just bent over and tried to lift a crate-full of sheep. It was my own fault, and I realize it. Fortunately, Michele's neighbor was home and was able to help get the second sheep out of the truck. He, also, was much smarter about it than I was. I just concentrated on standing for a while (which actually required more concentration than you'd imagine) and eventually worked my way up to sitting.

But now there are sheep nearby! I haven't been of much use around the property for the last few days, but I have been able to feed them. The grayer of the two is a male named "Shrek," and he has trimmed horns that angle straight toward his eyes. He's pretty docile and will come right up to me when I have food. He hasn't eaten out of my hand yet, though. The other, browner sheep is "Fiona." I'm guessing the previous owner was a Dreamworks fan. Either way, Fiona is much more nervous and will only approach after Shrek has already eaten and after I haven't moved for a good 10 minutes. Even then she won't come as near as Shrek will. I think she's still scared - it's been a bit of an ordeal for them!

But there we have it; that's how life's been for me for the past couple of weeks. Hopefully later, after my back recovers, I'll be able to post more.

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Enjoy Oregon!

My dad hitch-hiked from Michigan to Oregon in the '70s, met my mom in Portland, etc. He described Oregon as a mythical place to him, too, before he came out here.

I've lived in the Willamette Valley all my life, including 7 years in Eugene (now I'm in Portland).

If you get bored of the pace of life in Eugene (can be a bit slow at times), Portland is a nice change of pace, as is San Francisco (9 hours south) and Seattle (about 5 hours north, when you can avoid bad traffic).

Highway 126 leads up to the McKenzie River, with many things to do. I've got a blog with pictures, hikes, directions, etc.: http://www.shoestring-traveler.com/

Re: Enjoy Oregon!

Oh, neat! Seems you've got some neat places to see on that blog - I'll be sure to check it out. We're coming into summer right now, and I've been hearing from the locals that I shouldn't expect to see any rain for the next few months. Provided that the sun doesn't get too hot, it might be a great time to check out some of the sights around here. Thanks for the info!

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