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A Life Apart and Whole

A Life Apart and Whole

Our Work Horse Symposium, February of 2002, was a great success and it was, for the most part, because of the people who attended. We spent time with many old friends and made many new ones. It was here that I met Greg Metz for the first time. A quiet, well spoken man of obvious natural humility, he seemed to absorb everything around him. During a lunch break I spied him showing an album of photos to some of the other participants and Gary Showalter grabbed my arm, “Hey Lynn, you gotta do an article on Greg and his place!” Long story shortened; I pidgeon-holed Greg, borrowed these amazing pictures and got his promise that his partner Sue would send us captions, (then I worked out a future trade of one of my paintings for one of his knives). Sue sent us the text which follows.

Greg and Sue are caretakers in the absolute best sense of the word. They watch over, work, and nurture a hidden homestead far off the grid; no road, no phone lines, no power lines. Tucked into the great Idaho wilderness and accessible only by jet boat and/or pack train, they live a life of great diversity and beauty. (Their SFJ is dropped from a mail plane flying over!) We are honored that they share this view of their living with all of us.

I’m hoping we’ll get both of them to come down from the wilderness for next year’s symposium. LRM


A Life Apart and Whole
The original 16’ x 19’ cabin was expanded in 1992 to include this utility room addition. Felling the needed trees, Greg and Sue peeled the logs and skidded them to the site with some very green mules. The teamsters were pretty green at the time too!

Dear Lynn and Kristi,

Greetings from Idaho! I think I’ve finally stabilized Greg’s heart rate since that information-packed and inspirational weekend in Sisters! I was thankful for our two-hour hike to Indian Creek upon his return. Not only for the leisurely trail conversation we shared, but also for the fact that maybe the physical nature of the hike would mellow my usually mellow partner! Even though I loaded his frame pack with the weightier town supplies he brought home, his energy and enthusiasm prevailed. The three-day “Work Horse Symposium” in February was good medicine!

Regaling me with the events of the workshop, I’m kicking myself for missing out. Unable to do so, I remained at the ranch to keep the fires burning, the critters fed and our water line from freezing. It’s that time of year when we take turns venturing to ‘town’. We were just thankful that he was able to make arrangements to attend the symposium since the seasons of the year dictate our mobility. Mother Nature graciously released her icy grip on the Salmon River, allowing jet boat travel on our watery driveway. Upon hearing that Greg was partaking in the seminar, our river neighbors, (many of whom subscribe to SFJ) envied his westward journey.

A Life Apart and Whole
A lofty view of the ranch far below. Pinched between the canyon walls, Indian Creek runs a nine-mile course from its headwaters to meet the Salmon River.

An opportunity to shake up the winter routine is welcomed to keep the shack nasties at bay. From about Thanksgiving to early March, the faces in the mirror are the only one’s we encounter. The pace assumes a more leisurely course as we chip away at the never-ending to-do list, enjoying that time to recharge our internal batteries. By mid-February the itch settles in (like wet sand in your long john’s!) We find ourselves seeking new ways to spice up the routine. Mostly, we look forward to barer ground and the vestiges of spring that ignite the fires of a more physical tempo.

That period of winter solitude in the Salmon River canyon is treasured by the handful of year around residents as well as a needed reprieve for the local outfitters and guest ranches in Idaho’s back country. After a full year of guiding, guesting, gardening & going, we cram all the weekends we missed throughout the year into a lump of liquid days… and call it ‘January.’ Greg and I celebrate that gift of time to pamper ourselves in pleasurable pursuits and creature comforts. In between reading great books, journaling and crafts, Greg and I can be found working on the next years’ firewood supply, repairing and oiling the tack, and cracking walnuts that river friends supply us with. The rhythm of these placid weeks are savored, giving further reason to be grateful for the opportunity to live where the wind is your only neighbor.

A Life Apart and Whole
Not very original, but we call it the “Garden of Weedin’” and can spend many happy hours tending it. Cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli thrive well here. We rotate the variety of vegetables between six different garden plots. Canning, preserving & drying the abundance keeps the root cellar well stocked.

Prior to the fall of 1988, re-runs of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ sustained our latent longing to live in a rural setting. In the fall of that year, a pen pal whom we’d never met in person, invited us out to take care of a remote private ranch in central Idaho… for six months. This friend, (Felix Cox) had been the solo caretaker of Indian Creek Ranch for five years, and was looking for a little time off to explore other regions of the Pacific Northwest. At that time, Greg was an Estimator/Project Manager for an excavating firm in Bloomington, Minnesota. I worked as an Administrative Assistant/data processor for a real estate company in another Minneapolis suburb. What would any fairly sane, twenty-something couple do but agree to this adventurous offer? We were permitted a leave of absence from our jobs, loaded up the VW truck and headed west!

After two days and 1527 miles under our tires, we arrived in the Gem State. A jet boat was to meet us 27 miles east of Riggins, Idaho at the “End of the Road” – a 1 hour eternity along a washboard byway, reminiscent of the rutted Oregon Trail. Piling our belongings on the boat, we were jetted upstream another 19 miles, on the famed “River of No Return.” I was secretly hoping its moniker had no bearing on the specifics of our temporary journey. At the mouth of Indian Creek, Felix waited with a string of pack animals and his trusty hound, Hans. The array of gear was deftly loaded, followed by a 3-mile ride through the steep creek bottom to the ranch. Once there (finally!) we realized that if something important had been left in the parked truck, it was no longer important.

A Life Apart and Whole
“The Smithy.” Greg and Sue built this board-and-bat shop with the use of an Alaskan chain saw mill. Greg practically lives there in the winter months as it is prime time to work on knife orders and experiment with new forging techniques.

I’d love to boast about how well we adapted to life off the pavement! Instead, we were humbled. Not only by the vertical terrain and the physicality of simply ‘getting’ to the ranch, but by simpler things like baking bread in a wood cookstove, learning to pack in supplies on horse and mule, finding creative ways to keep perishables cool without refrigeration, and adjusting to the fact that you weren’t going to be attacked by a bear every time you ventured to the outhouse at night. This was nothing like the camping trips of our youth! Wide-eyed and willing to stick it out, we experienced much joy amidst the challenges. I just wish someone would have suggested we not bring so many articles of white clothing. The wringer washer could never hope to wash the farm life from those tube socks!

Coming from large midwestern families (10 in Greg’s family and 12 in mine), that oh-so-very-quiet Christmas was one we’ll never forget. The only familiarity it shared with the rambunctious nature of holidays past were the leftovers! I think the most difficult adjustment was the fact that nothing came instantly. Our mail was delivered twice a month (via plane and/or boat). By the time the fresh produce arrived, it was time to make banana bread! Life became a study in patience. We played it by ear. Through trial and error we prayed that the good Lord would watch over us. Of course, He did as it is nearly 14 years later, and we still have our arms and legs. (& most of that twenty-something sanity.)

A Life Apart and Whole
“All Ears.” (L-R) Luke, Johnny and Spider practice their begging techniques, hoping for a garden hand out.

From the spring of 1989 to 1991, we remained in remote locales, providing seasonal help for a few Salmon River guest ranches as well as spending six months on Kodiak Island in Alaska. We were delighted at the prospect of returning to Indian Creek in March of ’91 when Dr. Howard E. Adkins, the proprietor, informed us of a year around position there. Purchasing this 83-acre homestead site in 1969, “Doc” realized its potential and set about the arduous task of utilizing the timber to create a haven of self-sufficiency as well as an ultimate vacation spot for his family. We are fortunate enough for the opportunity to call it ‘home’ and tend the reality of Doc’s dream.

Throughout the years, we’ve been educated by life itself. Through experimentation, a lot of reading, and queries, we’ve learned to take things slow and easy, remaining true to simplicities. That’s the stuff of life. Like sitting down to a meal that is 80% your own doing. Or watching an imprinted yearling foals’ non-reaction when he’s saddled for the first time. Sitting atop a 100-yearold disc as a team of gentle giants work up a new piece of ground. The comforting warmth a brimming wood shed will provide in the months to come. An abundant pile of hay you’ve harvested that will sustain your four-legged kids over the winter. Admiring the slow but sure growth of the oak tree you planted. Picking a dozen beautiful brown eggs from the coop. Welcoming back the hummingbirds.

A Life Apart and Whole
Greg Metz at the anvil forging out a knife blade. He began bladesmithing in 1995 and attended a few seminars in Arkansas to glean helpful tips from Master Smith’s. Hours of elbow grease go into each knife but a smile is ever present when he’s working crude steel into useful tools.

We know you can relate to these simple pleasures and we can’t thank you enough for sharing some of your own while Greg was in Sisters. As a result of the enthusiasm for small farming you and the family at Small Farmer’s Journal instill, he hit the ground running upon his return. There’s no need to tell you to keep up the good work and your devotion to being a steward of the land. We have this funny feeling that you will. Take care!

Kindest personal regards, Greg Metz and Sue Anderson, Indian Creek Ranch – Idaho

A Life Apart and Whole
Load after load, the hay is deposited at the barn. After a ceremonial leap from the window into the grand pile, it is put up loosely with the Jackson Fork.
A Life Apart and Whole
The summer-idle cookstove provides needed counter space during garden harvest time. Peaches, pears, beans and jam are ready for the root cellar and future winter enjoyment.
A Life Apart and Whole
Dr. Howard E. Adkins. His vision and stewardship have created a private haven in the back of the beyond. A retired Ophthalmologist from Boise, Idaho, Doc is an author of fiction and orator of non-fiction…as well as a great cook! Purchasing Indian Creek Ranch in 1969, he set about the behemoth task of preserving and nurturing this historic settlement. With his wife Ione & their four children, they visit the ranch to lend a hand and attempt to squeeze in a vacation. A truly remarkable, humble and benevolent family whom we are proud to work for.
A Life Apart and Whole
A midday lunch will fortify Greg and Sue for afternoon chores.
A Life Apart and Whole
In 1916, two brothers from Wisconsin, Charles and Ed Matzke, established their homestead along Indian Creek. They raised produce and beef cattle during the mining boom of that era, providing homegrown supplies to prospectors in Dixie, Idaho and surrounding claims. Ed Matzke’s last will and testament was found in a cabin windowsill in the late 1970’s. It hangs in a frame on the log wall today.
A Life Apart and Whole
“The Bunkhouse.” Built as an annex to the barn, it housed the “Soup Bone Construction Crew” during the process of building the ranch owners’ cabin in the mid 1980’s. Complete with kitchen, a bathtub and bunks for six people, it accommodates visiting friends and family. The ranch rooster is sure to roust you awake and the sweet smell of horse leavings add to the ambiance.
A Life Apart and Whole
“Greg and his Girls.” Grace and Dixie “Gee and Haw” the day away in the meadow. The two Belgian/Thoroughbred mares were purchased for a song as green broke mares with foal (a four for the price of two deal!) These gentle giants have adapted well to teamwork, educating us in the process.
A Life Apart and Whole
Grace and Dixie are in horse heaven! The stone boat served as our hay slip until the old buckboard wagon (with wheels!) was resurrected from behind the barn.
A Life Apart and Whole
Via horsepower, ropes and pulley’s, the Jackson Fork elevates yet another helping into the hungry barn. With two cuttings we are able to put up six to eight ton of loose hay a year. In addition, a good supply of compressed alfalfa cubes and grain are packed up the trail each fall.
A Life Apart and Whole
At three months old, Sophie stops by the yard for her daily love-rubs. Sue is happy to oblige.
A Life Apart and Whole
A test run for the rebuilt Deering New Ideal Giant mower with the mares. Over the years, Greg has brought new life to the old machinery at Indian Creek. Now that he’s attended the “Work Horse Symposium,” he’s gung-ho about getting that mower working properly for the 2002 hay harvest.
A Life Apart and Whole
River neighbors along with the ranch owner ‘Doc’, lend a hand for the June haying at Indian Creek. Everyone knows they’ll need to bring their own pitchfork, as the orchard grasses are wind rowed manually until the sulky dump rake is resurrected.
A Life Apart and Whole
On a pack trip to the river, we discovered this abandoned fawn. Sue had intended to move the wee babe to the side to avoid the many horse hooves coming by. Upon lifting the weightless creature, it was decided that we should intervene. The fawn survived weakly for a week.
A Life Apart and Whole
This bear cub was inspecting the fruit trees that he would secretly harvest come autumn.
A Life Apart and Whole
Shooting “Granite Rapids” (also known as ‘The Green Room’) on the Snake River in Hell’s Canyon. Both the Snake and Salmon Rivers offer exciting thrills for white water enthusiasts.
A Life Apart and Whole
Greg Metz poses with a mountain lion (cougar) harvested by a hunter he guided at Shepp Ranch.
A Life Apart and Whole
A picturesque scene of mare and foal on a precarious mountain ridge in the Salmon River Breaks. Traveler found his mountain legs at six weeks.
A Life Apart and Whole
In the fall, Greg guides big game hunters for a neighboring outfitter, Shepp Ranch. Here he poses with one of his hunter’s trophy bull elk. In the spring, we hike the hillsides to hunt the naturally shed antlers from elk and deer. The ‘horns’ make beautiful knife handles.
A Life Apart and Whole
The pack string heading home. Supplies are jet boated 19 miles up the Salmon River to the mouth of Indian Creek followed by a 3-mile pack trip into the ranch. Each item is handled six to eight times before reaching its final destination.
A Life Apart and Whole
Breaking open a second meadow at the ranch to increase the orchard grass supply. Some days, the two hay meadows seem mighty big! A third meadow option has our heads spinning with sweaty possibilities!
A Life Apart and Whole
“Dexter.” After an extensive search for parts for our single tub wringer washer, our dream machine was found beneath a pile of walnut leaves in Riggins, Idaho. The owner of the machine said, “If you can pack it, you can have it!” The deal was sealed with a complimentary breakfast and a tin of Copenhagen. The wringer washer works like a charm!
A Life Apart and Whole
“The Chick Inn.” Sue shyly poses by the newly constructed chicken coop. Greg milled the needed lumber for the project. Creek aggregate, cement and rock from nature’s vast supply provided the materials for the stone walls that flank the door. The new coop was built to protect the chickens from coyotes, bobcats, eagles and other predators.
A Life Apart and Whole
Spider gets all the odd-ball loads! Like a pinball, she bounced her way up the trail with our new/old wringer washer. The other side was balanced with additional washer parts and a rock or two.
A Life Apart and Whole
This summer shower stall provides great views and an opportunity to rinse off the day. A small wood stove is used to warm the water barrel if the sun fails to cast its magic.
A Life Apart and Whole
October of 2000 brought about illuminating changes to Indian Creek. The PV array provides ample electricity, allowing us our first lights and outlets in ten years! The luxury of the sun’s energy-producing powers is a gift indeed. Every so often we wax nostalgic and have dinner by kerosene light. Now, if only Sue can get Greg to install a light in the outhouse!
A Life Apart and Whole
“The Barn.” This was the first contemporary structure built at Indian Creek in the early 1980’s. The lumber was milled on-site with timber from the property. Erected with ‘green’ lumber, the barn remains tight as a drum. Designed by a former caretaker of Dr. Adkins’, Doug England’s astute engineering brought the barn to life and put an end to saddling in the rain.
A Life Apart and Whole
Greg and Sue with back country mail pilot, Ray Arnold of Cascade, Idaho. Both Ray and Carol of Arnold Aviation are a major link to the outside world, providing air taxi services and supply deliveries to dozens of wilderness ranches and resorts. Each Wednesday, weather permitting, our weekly Santa Claus doles out mail and groceries as he buzzes through the canyon. From December to April, our mail (and SFJ!!!) is ‘air-dropped’ to the meadow at Indian Creek. We celebrate the bright orange bags’ plummet to the snow covered ground. It saves us from an all day round-trip hike to the nearest airstrip each week.
A Life Apart and Whole
Scrap wood and duplex nails for pegs make a fine cribbage board. This is a piece of Yew Wood; a workable hardwood that provided good long bow material for the Native Americans of this area. Sue enjoys the game itself and creating the boards, with woodburned animals or scenery for decoration.
A Life Apart and Whole
This Metz antler-handled utility knife was a gift to our employer, Doc Adkins. His enthusiastic support over the years has allowed us to pursue various crafts and interests in addition to taking care of this pastoral paradise. (Photo by Andy Washnik of Corporate Print Communications, Westwood, NJ).
A Life Apart and Whole
“The Caretakers Cabin at Indian Creek.” Greg Metz and Sue Anderson spent their first winter here in 1988. They have lived here year around since the spring of 1991 in its cozy comfort and rustic charm.
A Life Apart and Whole