Sometime in the last few years, Joe and I started a tradition of giving each other ‘experience’ gifts for Christmas instead of tangible ones. We each plan an activity/date to do together and then present the gift in some sort of creative way.
While brainstorming ideas for Joe’s gift this past December, I went down an internet rabbit hole that led me to a town called Cottage Grove — the ‘Covered Bridge Capital’ of Oregon.
Hmm, I thought. Covered bridges…
As some of you know, Joe and I had our wedding photos taken under a covered bridge. While I had envisioned our photo session taking place on the beach and in the forest (sunlight glowing…during ‘golden hour’…), a typhoon storm blew into Oregon on our wedding day, making outdoor photos impossible. Thankfully Joe and our friend Steve discovered a covered bridge in the area, so after our ceremony, we drove to it, and my best friend Melissa worked her camera magic for an hour while we stood under the bridge.
It was literally our shelter in the storm.
Which, in thinking about it now, is a pretty good metaphor for marriage. Life can be tough, right? Having Joe alongside me to weather the ups and downs really does feel like having permanent shelter.
So, when I found out there was a ‘Covered Bridge Capital’ in Oregon, it seemed like a fun idea for his gift. I started searching Airbnb (a favourite pastime), and came across this adorable tiny cottage. Rustic! Rural! On a farm with animals! I was sold.
We embarked on our Rural Adventure a couple weekends ago. Cottage Grove is two hours south of Portland, and we rolled in on a Friday evening. The cottage is three miles from town on a seven-acre farm, and staying there feels like you’re in your own little world.
We cooked some pasta, drank a little red wine, and played a funny card game called Slamwich. It was super mellow, and in the morning we got to wake up under the loft skylight…
which was a pretty peaceful way to rise, despite the faint sound of a rooster crowing. Joe made coffee and we took it with us on a stroll of the property. Checking out chickens, ducks, and a lone goose first thing in the morning was definitely a refreshing change from checking my inbox. :)
Cottage Grove has a bike trail you can take to tour the covered bridges, so after breakfast we took off for the afternoon and rode out to see them. There are seven bridges, mostly built in the 1920s, with just one still in use.
We stopped at Dorena Lake for a picnic, complete with trail mix, olive bread, and triple cream brie.
It had been a while since I’d ridden a bike (despite living in a pretty serious bike town), but after this trip, I was definitely inspired to do more. My thing is, I don’t want to bike in traffic. Or up hills. But give me a flat rural road on a sunny day at a cruisey pace, and I’m your girl.
(Joe probably would have preferred to go a little faster.)
Back at the cottage…
Joe set himself up for some rigorous chilling out. (He’s currently reading The Wind in the Reeds, a book about New Orleans written by Wendell Pierce, who played Bunk in The Wire.)
I dedicated myself to a nap, followed by a couple chapters of this novel. It’s so good!
The cottage is next to a creek, so later on we pulled a couple chairs out to the front porch and had a glass of grigio. These kind of moments get me daydreaming about living in the countryside. What’s not to love?
Dinner ended up being a plate of cheesy french fries at a pub in town called Axe and Fiddle. A band from Santa Barbara was playing, and we hung out and listened for a bit before heading back. We had a tour planned for the next morning…of the farm!
It’s owned by Marshall and Katja, a lovely couple who have had the place for five years.
The cow’s name is Barbara, and she makes very tasty yogurt which we sampled each morning with breakfast.
Marshall showed us around, Joe asked a bunch of questions about raising bees (a future dream of his), and then the goats came out to graze.
On the day we arrived, a baby goat had been born, which made him just three days old the morning we toured the farm. Marshall put it right into my arms, and I got to hold him for about 20 minutes while watching the other goats hang out.
Have you ever held a baby goat? If not, I recommend you do so immediately.
My time with this little guy did NOT curb my daydream about country living…he’s the pet I never knew I needed! He was surprisingly calm and content being cradled by a human. I could have held him all.day.long.
The other goats were starting to get “naughty” as Marshall put it (I think they may have been grazing on trees they weren’t supposed to) so he started herding them back in. Joe offered to help…
but the goats had other ideas.
We finally got them all in the pen and sadly, I had to give my new best friend back. (I have not forgotten you, little goat.)
Last on our list for the trip was a stop at Agrarian Ales, a hop farm and brewery near Eugene.
I had read that their flatbread pizza was good, and Joe’s favourite food is pizza, so I thought it would be a fun way to wrap up his experience gift. It was delicious.
Cottage Grove, folks. Who knew?
I’m officially inspired to take more bike rides, live in the country, and apparently raise goats. (Or at least find more baby ones to cuddle.)
For now, I’ve got some packing to do…will share details of our upcoming move soon. It’s not to a farm or the countryside, but it is somewhere totally new. :)