By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

A family affair -

The yard was always a family affair, with Ben and Liz Stein’s children pressed into labor. Now, years later, it’s helping educate grandchildren and sometimes neighborhood children.

The charming retreat is dominated by the large pond in the center, surrounded by flowers and watched over by a benevolent bear, carved from the stump of a sequoia. It caught the eye of the McMinnville Garden Club, which awarded the Steins its Yard of the Month honor for May.

“We moved here from Condon, and it’s so hard to grow things over there,” Liz Stein said. “When we moved here, we had friends saying, ‘Oh, you’ll be able to grow anything.’ And we were originally from this area anyway, so we knew that. One of my big things was color all year.”

Throughout the season, she said, the particular flowers blooming around the pond change. But as each fades, something else takes its place.

“This is my refuge, being outside,” Stein said. “Nobody likes it like I do, but they tolerate it, and will help.”

 The Steins, who have lived in the home since 1985, made the most of whatever resources were on hand.

“We have five children, and we utilized all of them,” Liz Stein said. “They were all in 4-H — economics and flower gardens. It was kind of fun. They would be wanting flowers to take to the fair, and so, they had to help take care of them.”

Daughter Clare put in a rose garden. Today, vegetables are growing among the remaining roses.

When another son and daughter-in-law moved in a few years ago, for a two-year stay, bringing their Husky dogs, the garden had to be removed from the fenced backyard, Stein said. “I transplanted everything out to the front, so it would survive,” she said.

The couple and their dogs have since moved into their new home, but the vegetable garden stayed put, because it did better out front.

Neat raised beds feature rows of broccoli, onions, lettuce and carrots. Pumpkins, planted with assistance from 4-year-old granddaughter Lilyan, are planted outside the beds where they can sprawl among the roses.

A tradition in the family, begun with the children and carried on for the grandchildren, is to etch each pumpkin with a child’s name; the injuries will scar over and be clearly visible at harvest time.

When Ben Stein said the trio of giant sequoias at the edge of the yard were becoming too crowded, Liz argued for saving them. But she eventually became reconciled to the loss.

When a friend suggested having a stump carved into a bear sculpture, local artist Jesse Leavitt was commissioned for the work. “I didn’t want it to be scary-looking, so he put a honeypot with it,” Stein said.

Additional slices of the wood were set aside for eventual incorporation into a walkway.

The pond, with its waterfall and fountain, and log bridge, is surrounded by flowers — azaleas, white calla lilies, pansies, daisies. Birdhouses adorn the surrounding trees.

Ceramic raccoons cavort beside the pond, but to avoid attracting real ones, the Steins avoided stocking it with fish. She loves it when passersby stop to admire the pond, she said.

In the absence of fish, tiny native frogs have taken residence.

“They’re little, but loud,” Stein said. “I had to go to all my neighbors, and say, ‘I’m so sorry!’”