Southern Oregon Home for Sale.
Over the past three years, I have traveled often to Port Orford. First, it was to help my mother after the death of her husband of thirty-five years. Later, I helped maintain her property on Cedar Hollow Drive, including 1.72 acres of mixed fir, pine, cedar and other hardwoods. A three-bedroom home stands in a clearing at the far end of a long gravel driveway. Last fall, I helped my mother move from there to Heritage Place, an assisted living facility in Bandon (By the Sea), Oregon. Next, I began preparing her property for sale, expecting to use the proceeds to pay for her new retirement lifestyle. After she passed away in February 2010, I opted not to sell, but rather to prepare the house for rental. In late May 2010, I shall make another visit to Port Orford, completing that process.
In Port Orford, U.S. Highway 101 changes names to Oregon Street. There, the highway is four lanes wide, with parallel parking along both sides of the street. Nowhere in Southern Oregon does the speed limit exceed fifty-five miles per hour. Despite signs and flashing lights warning of the thirty miles per hour speed limit through the city, many travelers barely slow down. As often as not, the local police cruiser quietly waits for the next speeder to blow through town. Rarely does he have long to wait. Announcing his presence with a quick “whoop” from his siren, there is no place for a scofflaw to run or to hide. Some call it a speed trap. Others will say, “We warned you, fair and square”.
To an outside observer, Port Orford appears to exist in a time warp. With no traffic signals to slow you down, you might drive through town in less than five minutes. If you are looking for national-franchise businesses of any kind, you will find only filling stations, hardware and auto parts stores there. Almost every other business in Port Orford is local, both in ownership and concept. For many businesses in and around Port Orford, a website is a curiosity, but not a reality.
When I began working on the Port Orford house, everything outdoors was reverting to nature, including fir trees that overhung the eaves and green moss growing on the roof and in the garden. Moss is appropriate in the forest, but when growing on a roof, it indicates that too little sunlight is reaching the surface. Twice in the past two years, I contracted with Blue Sky Tree Service, in Bandon to cut dangerous, dead or overgrown trees from the property. My goal was to lift the lower reaches of the canopy and to push back thirty-five years of forest encroachment around the house.
Inside the house, there were spider webs behind each piece of furniture that abutted a wall. By the time of my departure, it felt like I had vacuumed out enough spider webs to knit a sweater. As both the outside and the inside became cleaner and neater, I realized that the property is beautiful, beyond compare.
For five years, Mom’s 2005 Chrysler 300 was almost the only vehicle to use the driveway. Lately, heavy service trucks have used the driveway more frequently. By late April 2010, Port Orford had already seen over fifty-five inches of rain. The matt of decomposed forest material that lay upon the driveway quickly turned to mush. It was time to apply a new coat of gravel at each end of the driveway.
Looking at the driveway from the street, it soon becomes a double-track, with moss, grass and other small plants growing between the tracks. Farther on, the ground is higher and retains more of the original gravel. In honor of the natural surroundings, I wanted that section to have the undisturbed look of an old country road. Our goal was to rehabilitate the driveway, but leave a swath of green between the two sets of tire tracks.
After several recommendations, I contracted with Janet Dougherty, of Bandon, Oregon to provide the gravel that we needed for the job. Janet is the owner and driver of Big Bertha, a fourteen-yard Mack EZ-460 dump truck. Janet and Big Bertha quickly spread twelve tons of freshly crushed gravel for me. They laid most of the material at either end of the driveway, leaving the middle section relatively untouched. Each end received at least two inches of gravel, plus an extra pile, which I later hand-raked into place.
Upon delivery, the gravel was wet and covered with a thin coating of gray mud. The mud was a byproduct of wet crushing the rock. Most city dwellers are used to seeing washed gravel, which looks clean by comparison. In order to see what the gravel really looked like, I sprayed water on a few spots, flooding it until the gray mud ran off or soaked in between the stones. After washing, the material showed itself to be solid granite, three quarters of an inch in diameter and varying in color from dark gray to white.
After hand grading the driveway with shovel and rake, I then drove back and forth in my 2006 Nissan Titan truck. The wide tires acted like steamrollers, packing the gravel down to its base level. After grading and rolling, our transition from gravel to concrete is as smooth as a Los Angeles freeway. In the transition area between full-gravel and our country road, I raked fresh gravel off the median, and then built it up where the wheels of my truck might roll.
The next day, my driveway greenbelt looked sad. We had gouged it, dumped on it, scraped and trampled it. It rains so much in Port Orford that unless grass or moss are well established, soil can run off quickly. I decided to rehabilitate it from the ground-up. To do so, I first applied bags of bark mulch and potting soil, spreading those materials wherever growth was thin or damaged.
In town, I found a grass seed product that included a moisture-retaining growth medium, encapsulating each seed. After sewing the super-grass seed along the center strip, I raked up some extra pine needle-mulch and used it to cover much of my new ecological experiment. Next, I sprinkled granular plant food along my new garden path. Finally, I watered the median, from the pump house to as far as my hose would reach. Overnight, the Port Orford area received gentle, soaking rain.
On April 26, 2010 we completed the driveway, and then departed the next day. With frequent rain reported since then, we hope to see substantial growth upon our return in late May. With a bit of luck, we will have a clean, level driveway and thriving new growth down the center of our country road. Whatever the results may be, we shall report them here in Early June. At that time, please return for photographic evidence of nature’s bounty in Port Orford, Oregon.
Email James McGillis