written by Anna Bird | photos by Talia Galvin
The property we live on was the site of an illegal marijuana growing operation in the ’80s. The federal marshals stormed it with S.W.A.T. cars and confiscated the place. When we wanted to move out of Redmond in 2006, we found this place and right away, we knew we wanted it. It was the perfect place to build our dream home—160 acres between Prineville, where I work, and Madras, where my husband, Robert Marheine, works. We can track the sun from east to west, we can walk out on the porch and shoot guns, and we can hike and fish nearby.
I grew up in the Midwest—mostly Michigan—and then went to UC Santa Cruz for my undergraduate degree and studied biology. When I graduated, I was offered a graduate research position at Oregon State University to study the physiology of sagebrush. I didn’t know what the heck sagebrush was, and I wasn’t interested in grad school, but they were going to pay me, so I took it. I went to school in Corvallis then moved to Burns to do my research on Wyoming Big Sagebrush—wyomingensis.
My first job out of graduate school was in Prineville at the BLM (U.S. Bureau of Land Management) in 1991 as a range conservationist, which involved monitoring livestock grazing. One day, I was out toward Millican checking on water troughs when I ran into Robert, who was working for ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) at the time. He was cute but married, and a couple years later our paths crossed again, and he was single. We went on our first date trap-shooting in the Crooked River National Grasslands right next to the property we live on now. This year is our twenty-year anniversary.
Robert got a job with Portland General Electric in Madras as a wildlife biologist, and the commute from Redmond was too much. Now we both have about a thirty-minute drive, along dirt roads or county roads with no traffic, so it’s a lot better. The position I’m in now at BLM has me in the office most of the time, but I get to come home to this amazing spot with sagebrush everywhere and stunning sunsets every night. We’ve been building our house for almost four years, and it’s definitely been a labor of love. It’s positioned higher on the property so the power lines fade into the horizon, and it will have a huge patio and big windows. We love being able to see forever.