OKANOGAN COUNTY, Wash. — Muck the chicken coop. Prune the young plum. Harvest potatoes from the stiffening ground. Gather the last sunflower seeds before the goldfinches pick clean the tired stalks.
It is autumn here at Poverty Flats, and we are racing the winter. The days are short. The to-do list is long.
I climb on an unsteady ladder to the cabin’s roof to try sweeping the chimney. The cabin is small, its roof low, but even from here I can see what the mortgage papers tell me is now in my care — coop, garden, half-dozen skinny fruit trees, a few acres of rocky pasture that are good mostly for growing sagebrush. But also, a view over the fence to mountains on three sides that hold the valley as gently as water in a cupped palm.