Oct 28, 2013

Fall Color Along the Deschutes

A new pair of trail shoes ....

two weeks of glorious Indian Summer weather ...

a river ...

a boon companion ...

and it's time for our annual fall color walks along the Deschutes.

We feel so fortunate to have this magnificent river flowing right through our town.  More often than not, our Thursday Date Day Hikes take place on or near the river.  Although the arid West is not known for fall color the way New England is, and for good reason, we appreciate our aspens and larches all the more for their glorious light.   They pop out against the backdrop of dark evergreens and lava rock.

The river is quite low for this time of year, and the water, flowing more slowly, shows the deep green blue more commonly seen in the glacial meltwater lakes higher up in the mountains.

The past couple of weeks we have walked along the upper sections of the river trail, above Benham Falls, where the old railroad bed it follows are clearly evident.

The original railroad bed was converted to a haul road for huge log trucks in the 1950's and is now a wide, beautifully graded trail along long sections.  It reminds me of the carriage roads outside Bar Harbor, Maine.

The rotting pilings of the old haul road bridge sit next to the new one.

Just upstream from the bridge is the old log jam, purposely created to slow the river and prevent loose logs from running into the bridge pilings.

Most of this area was clear cut in the early 1900's and the trees you see are new growth since then.   There are still mature giant Ponderosa pines in the picnic area just beyond the bridge.

Just beyond the bridge, the trail bears south, after crossing the current railroad line,

and begins its run alongside the vast lava fields created by Lava Butte, visible in the distance here:

While playing with my telephoto....

I saw a flash of movement among out of the corner of my eye.   I glanced over, expecting to see a ground squirrel, but was surprised to see this little guy peering at me from a nice secure rock pile:

He stepped out to get a better view of me...

then posed for a profile shot...

Although he was as cute as could be
I suspected he was a rather fierce creature up close and personal.   Thinking he wasn't quite the right color for a pine marten or weasel, I did a bit of research once I got home.   Although rare in our area, I believe this little fellow was an ermine, or stoat.   A special wildlife bonus for the hike.

Then we headed back to our car, parked just above Benham Falls.   Here's the final view downstream

Oct 20, 2013

Our Rupert

Our Rupert died this week.

He was the sweetest boy ever.   I suppose he looked like every other black cat:   black.   But he had the cutest long tufts on the tips of his ears, a mellow disposition, and a loving nature that led him to take small newcomers under his wing and make them lifelong sleeping companions.

Despite a rather timid nature, he bravely defended us from various threats, including mice, frogs, birds and the Evil White Cat Across the Street.

When I started looking for photographs of the manly guy, I found only a few solo shots.

He rarely napped...

or sat guard duty


He loved his grub

and was famous for nibbling any bare toes he found standing in the kitchen while food was being prepared.   We had to develop a special Rupert Dance to avoid his not-always gentle nips.   After all, he was just trying to do everyone a favor by speeding things along.

He loved being outside in all weather

and he helped out in the garden whenever possible

He loved his special Rupert basket by the fire in winter,

but his favorite place was always cuddled up with as many friends as possible.

We buried him next to the woodpile, where he spent many hours on various projects known only to himself.   We suspect he was monitoring the mouse population there.

In final tribute to our sweet boy, I give you the silly boy Rupert movie:

Aug 28, 2013

I went, I saw, I got wet -- Backyard Farm Tour Day Two

With my own duty as official backyard farm host completed last Saturday, I set out the next day to see what others had growing.  Most of the tour stops on the second day were closer to actual farms than backyards.   I only made it to three before getting rained out, but they were pretty cool.

The first was a garden in an alley, behind a row of traditionally (boringly) landscaped newer homes on fairly small lots.   There are no backyards in this neighborhood, just an alley leading to garages.  The gardener, Natacha, fills every patch of dirt in the alley, and along the narrow spaces on each side of her house.  Here's the view from the entrance to the alley.   Can you spot it, beyond the second fence on the right?

first hints of something a little different:

Hey, look at that.....

Natacha's farm!

What these photos don't show is a long row of raspberries along one narrow side yard, and a packed potato patch filling the other, along with a couple of rogue zucchini plants hiding amongst the standard shrubbery in the front.  Birdfeeders, fountain and a big deck with planters full flowers and herbs complete the space.  Every square inch is edible.

With a thunderstorm looming overhead, I headed east to look at two herb 'farms'.  The first one, tucked into the back of a 1/2 acre lot (though it seemed much bigger), is still being created.   At one side is a newish vegetable/herb garden with a small greenhouse.

Across the yard stands a 50 foot hoop house, with sod clearing underway for a second house.   Are you sure this is only a half acre?

Under showery skies, I drove just a few blocks to another herbary, this one on a rocky, full acre lot.   A longer-established garden included raised beds, cloches, a large enclosed area for ducks and chickens, various sheds and greenhouses, all interwoven with native juniper trees and sagebrush and grasses.

I love seeing what other people plant.   Kale, strawberries, chard, and tomatoes are standard.   Along with the green beings, there were other denizens to be seen.  Chickens....

Bees .....

And my fellow tourers....

By this time thunder and lightning were right over the top of us.   After spending 15 minutes huddled under the porch of the house, I headed back to my car, parked nearly two blocks away, when the rain let up.   Before I got even halfway there, the storm redoubled its efforts, and despite my best sprinting form, I arrived at my car battered by hail and soaked to the skin.

At that point I decided to give up on the tour.  I was hungry and the storm cell covered miles and looked like it was here to stay (according to the next day's news reports, the storm generated over 7000 lightning strikes in our area that day and evening.)

  Besides, I had one more errand before I headed home.  

A special sale of fine pianos, onstage at the Tower Theatre downtown, needed visiting.  Pianos needed testing.  To a piano lover, even a wet one, there is no prettier sight than a crowd of shiny grands under lights.


Aug 26, 2013

They came, they saw, they asked questions -- Back Yard Farm Tour Day One

The 2013 Bend Backyard Farm Tour is history.  On a beautiful sunny Saturday, I had over 100 visitors to my 'farm'.   I was so busy I never had time to take a break, and didn't get 'lunch' until the last guest departed, a little after 4:00.

I was so busy I never even took out my camera, so I have no photos of the day -- sorry.  Just for the record, though, here is some of what they saw, under this morning's cloudy skies rather than the bright sunshine of Saturday.

The entrance to the back garden

leads to a large selection of nursery pots, full of perennials waiting to be transplanted into the front yard.   I think most people just thought they were colorful container gardens.   Shhhh

I will say that I was surprised by some of the questions I got.   I always expect to answer questions about tomatoes

and dealing with deer -- which I did.   A large percentage of my visitors each year are newcomers to Bend and/or gardening in general.  Most newcomers arrive from balmier and/or wetter areas such as Seattle, Portland, or California, and I share the usual caveats 'frost is possible any day of the year' 'add tons of organic matter, the soil here is mostly sand' and 'choose varieties for short season maturity'.   This year, though, I had a most unusual experience, when I got to tell newcomers from Paisley, Oregon (south and east of here, even drier and colder and higher in elevation than Bend), 'hey, you'll love it -- it's warmer and we have a longer growing season'.  

But I also found myself expounding on such random topics as:  why the big old weeping birch trees are dying all over town (they are being stressed by rising temperatures), the need to water trees and shrubs, especially newly planted evergreens in the winter (they frequently die over their first winter because when the cold, dry air dries out the foliage, the moisture cannot be replaced via the frozen soil) ...... best non-bee-attracting annual flowers for restaurant window boxes (how would I know, since I plant everything I can that attracts bees?!  ..... what to do for aphids and powdery mildew on lupine cultivars (take 'em out and plant native varieties which are never touched by either).   It's amazing what knowledge you pick up in 40+ years of gardening.

Of course I answered lots of questions about chickens,

 including 'what do you do to keep them warm in winter?' (nothing -- they have feathers and down that will protect them as long as they are dry and out of the wind), 'what kind are those spotted ones' (Speckled Sussex)

and 'why is that chicken in prison?' (because she has gone broody).

Also, does your cat attack the chickens?  (no, but they definitely keep an eye on each other)

Every year there is one plant in particular that for some reason intrigues people, and everybody asks about it.   One year it was asparagus -- most people have only seen the early spring sprouts that appear magically in grocery stores and don't recognize the beautiful ferny leaves of the mature plant.   Another year it was borage, which I allow to go to seed because I love the blue, star-shaped flowers, and so do the bees.

This year people did ask about the borage and the asparagus, but the big surprises were fruit trees ('you can grow fruit trees here?!')

and my favorite question:  'what is that flower that looks like an artichoke?' (it's an artichoke).

Overall, it was just fun to talk with a bunch of really nice, curious and often well-informed people, many of them experienced gardeners themselves.   Although there is a healthy locavore movement, and a recent crop of small farms raising vegetables and herbs locally, it seems many people still don't know much about how to raise their own food and are eager to learn.  I hope some of them went away with a spark of an idea to try a few kale plants this fall and next year.