Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

Christmas Day dawned with a dramatic Eastern sky.

I am not a morning person by any means but was so thankful to be up to witness this sunrise. What a Christmas morning gift!

First thing we checked the stocking to see what Santa-paws might have delivered. New cat-nip mice for everyone!

Solomon says please leave me alone - I'm busy here!

Padma was in heaven. Nothing like a 20 pound cat in drug-induced joy!

As I set the Christmas table, this female Hairy Woodpecker was having her Christmas lunch at the peanut feeder.

Just after 4 PM we at down to dinner with Family.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

December 24th was an exact repeat of the 23rd - sunny and very strangely warm outside. On our back patio, where the concrete captures any afternoon heat, the thermometer read 67 degrees!

Parvati was in cat heaven basking in the rare Christmas Eve sunshine.

She flopped back and forth, over and over, as only a contented Kittie can do.

Almost there.......

And we're over! The humans in the household also spent some time soaking in the warmth before our attention turned to the night's festivities. With our thoughts on food, family, and a manager, Mother Nature ended the day with a dramatic sunset.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice - The First Day of Winter

Today officially welcomed Winter! After today, our days will begin to increase in length, ever so slowly. This shortest day of the year blessed us with sunshine and blue skies. Although the daylight was short in length, it was warm ,cheery, and left with a beautiful glow.

"Yule, is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb. Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Saturday Walk in December

Today I took some time to enjoy the cold but sunny weather and went for a short hike around the property. Even though we are but a few short weeks from the official start of Winter, there is still much beauty to be found if you keep your eyes wide open. As I passed a meadow covered in fallen oak leaves, a glimmer caught my eye. Upon closer examination I discovered this sweet little spider web, covered on dew.

Most of the leaves have fallen now but are still visually alluring as they loose their fall color and turn brown.

The wild filberts are already producing their male catkins. As Springtime approaches these will grown in length and release pollen. 

And some of your young Douglas fir trees are starting to produce cones. The bright green trusses and the brown cones just look like December to me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Cold December Night & "Finally Finished!"

Quite often, December in my part of Oregon includes a long stretch of dry, cold weather. This year the month is starting out with this weather pattern. Today was sunny but with highs only in the 40's. By the time I arrived home it was already 36 degrees with the low tonight expected to be in the 20s. As I drove up our long driveway, the pink colored sky caught my attention. I ran in and grabbed my camera and was able to capture a bit of the lovely sunset. We should have many more of these to enjoy in the next week if this weather pattern continues as predicted.

The big excitement was that I finished the last of my dahlia tuber dividing, washing, and packing away tonight! After 5 weeks I finally am all finished. As you can see, all of the wrapped tubers fit nicely inside two copy paper boxes. These will be stored in an unheated room attached to our garage where they will stay all winter at about 45 degrees.

I planted 199 dahlia plants this Spring. Of the original 199, 194 plants produced tubers that I could dig this fall. Now from those 194 tubers planted this year, I have harvested and stored 621 tubers. A few of those tubers will suffer some rot over the Winter and many won't have a viable eye come Spring. But I should still have plenty of tubers for myself and the rest I can donate to my local Society. Many people ask why I take the time to dig my dahlias. Well, there are two answers to that question. First of all, the clay soil in my garden is so wet that I would loose almost every clump over the Winter. And then the average cost of replacing a dahlia tuber is around $4.50, with new varieties starting at $15.00 and going higher. So even at $4.00, if I have 500 viable tubers this next Spring they have a low-end market value of $2,000! That's worth 5 weeks of work to me.

It is such a great feeling to have this big project done. It feels a little bit like canning and food security. No matter what Mother Nature throws our way this Winter, I know that my two boxes of tubers are safely stored and I will have glorious dahlia plants once again next year.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fall's Last Hurrah

 After the big wind and rain storms of the last 10 days, most of the trees have dropped their leaves. Now the last of Fall's color is found not by looking up, but by looking down.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Garden Finish!

This isn't the most attractive picture of my big garden but to me it's a lovely site! Today I finished digging up the last of my 199 dahlia plants and I got all of the "end-of-season" clean-up completed. Yippee! Considering that we had over 3" of rain earlier this week the digging wasn't too bad. It was actually so wet the clay couldn't even clump on my boots. So, now the garden and the gardener rest!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
                              The harvest all is gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.

                        Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway ---
                              Thanksgiving comes again!

                           HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE !

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Last Outdoor Farmer's Market of the Year

Today was the final outdoor Lane County Farmer's Market for 2011. The crowds at the market are much lighter now than even a month ago. It's a shame really because there is still so much amazing produce to take home and I even managed to find some new surprises today too!

How about some fresh Ginger! This beautiful white & pink ginger is so much prettier than the brown nobs that are sold in the grocery store. These bulbs still were attached to their stalks. I had no idea that ginger resembled bamboo so much above the soil line.

And these yellow beauties were quince.

And another exotic fruit - persimmon.

There were a number of stalls offering mushrooms for sale. The selection was amazing.

These cauliflower mushrooms reminded me of sea coral.

And the golden chanterelled just glowed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I haven't had the luck this Fall finding and photographing mushrooms like I did last year. I think part of this is due to last year's excessive rainfall starting in Mid-September and really never quitting. And I am sure part of it is due to me just not being in the right place at the right time- with my camera. However, I did manage to find these two interesting groups of mushrooms in the last few weeks. I don't think that I have ever seen the group pictured above. I found them in our "island" area, a grassy, mown triangle up by the house. There were groups of them sprinkled all over the island. This was a newer group and the pronouncement between the white mushroom and its yellow crown was quite clear. As each mushroom aged, its "umbrella" dome opened and the yellow eye faded.

In our front yard area, and in the front flower bed, I found many groups of the mushrooms pictured below. After spending a lot of time looking at my "Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest" book that Santa Claus brought me last year, I think that I have pretty confidently identified these as "Coprinus Comatus", Shaggy Mane mushrooms. Shaggy Manes are one of the most popular edible mushrooms and fruit mostly in late Summer to Fall in the Pacific Northwest.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yet Another Frosty Morning

Yet another frosty, cold morning. The thermometer read 27 degrees and everything was coated in a thick blanket of white frost. I particularly admired the braken ferns, their beautiful geometry etched in white.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Digging Begins

Today I started the annual task of digging up all of my dahlias. I have 199 plants set out in 15 rows.  I began today by cutting down 3 rows. These will be the tubers that I lift next weekend. Then I dug up the 3 rows of dahlias that I cut down earlier this week. I ended up with 42 clumps. I was pleased at the condition of the tubers that I dug today. With our cool, wet Spring & Summer I was really concerned that the tuber growth might have been affected. But he tubers are all full size and seem to be firm, with very little signs of rot at this point. After I got everything dug I hauled them back to the house. I then gentle hosed each clump off and trimmed them of all the misc roots and stocks. Then they went into the shop to await division and further cleaning.

Here are four nice clumps of the Pom "Willo Borealis". It looks like I should definitely have enough tubers to grow and to share next year. In the picture below, you can clearly see the swollen eyes on tubers, right where they join the stock. This makes dividing so much easier.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Frosty Morning & A Lovely Afternoon

We were below freezing again this morning. For those of us counting, that's three days in a row. Quite unusual for this time of the year. The difference today was that the sun came out early. It quickly warmed up and we had a beautiful day. Our big leaf maples were glowing in the low afternoon sunshine. This is why we love October.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Even Colder Night #2

Last night the official low at the airport was 27 degrees. We had a reading before dawn of 29 degrees at our house. As you can see, the extra three degree drop in the temperature finished off my dahlias. They are a pretty sad looking lot now. The good news is I can proceed now with my digging and dividing without feeling guilty about cutting down blooming dahlia plants! Tonight after work I went down to the garden and cut down my first three rows. It was a quick and easy task. Since we haven't had any rain for over two weeks, the ground is nice and dry. I can't believe that I am chopping down the dahlias and I don't have mud sticking to the bottom of my shoes. The dahlias plants are also really easy to work with right now. The frost has essential "freeze-dried" the plants. They are dry, light and easy to carry off to the burn pile. Clean up has never been this easy - seriously! I'm just not used to these easy working conditions.

Here's two rows after I was done. I left about 4" of stem above the ground on each plant. This gives me a nice handle to hold as I gently lift the tubers and a good place to wrap the name tag around as it is carried home. I will let these tubers rest in the ground until Sunday before I dig them up. This will give the tubers time to be "shocked' that the plants are dead ( or in this case cut off). The tubers will immediately begin to harden off and cure underground. The eyes on the individual tubers will also begin to swell. When I dig the tubers on Sunday it will be much easier to see where I should make my cuts and the tubers should store over winter better as well. I have fifteen rows of dahlias this year. My goal is to dig 3 rows every weekend and then wash, divide and label the tubers from those plants during the following weeknights. Sticking to this schedule I will finish digging on Thanksgiving Weekend. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The First Killing Frost

This morning on the way to work the car thermometer read 32 degrees. As I drove by the big garden I slowed down and tried to see if I could find any signs of frost damage. I thought that the dahlia foliage looked a little bit darker than normal but with such a quick glance I couldn't be sure. After work I walked down to the garden. Sure enough, the season is officially over! As you can see, all of the dahlia foliage was blackened by the freezing temperature. All of the new growth had turned to mush too but the main stem on each plant was still alive. It didn't get cold enough for a complete kill on the thick stemmed dahlias.

Tonight it is suppose to get even colder. Since I have had this much damage already, I am hoping that tonight's cold delivers the final knock-out punch! It was interesting to see what was damaged and what few plants survived.

My two beautiful rows of "Persian Carpet" zinnias were killed as were the other two varieties of zinnias. My row of mixed marigolds however, survived just fine. My theory is the heat from the earth kept the air temperature from freezing from a height of about 12" high to the ground. Since the marigolds are all just about 6" tall, they all made it ok through the night.

I was very thankful that the marigolds didn't freeze. I planted 3 varieties in the Gem series; "Lemon Gem", "Tangerine Gem" and Red Gem". One of my "Red Gem" plants appears to be a sport. Instead of the solid red petals tipped in orange that the other plants displayed, this plant had many blooms with orange petals overlaid with two red stripes. You can see some examples of this in the picture below. So, I decided to save some seed from this plant and see what I get next year. Perhaps this was a one-off, and will stabilize next year. Or perhaps I have the seed for a neat variation in the "Gem" series. Stay tuned!