Thursday, February 24, 2011

Finally, some snow!

Last night, it started snowing, but not sticking, as I drove home from work. Around 6:30 PM it started sticking and we received maybe 1/2 inch. It was just enough to start turning everything white. The weather forecast called for the possibility of 1-4" of snow on the valley floor and up to 12" above 500 feet - our part of the world - in the next 24 hours. But time has taught me to not get too excited about the forecasts. It is just too hard to predict snow in our region. Truthfully, we often get the best snowfall totals when no snow has been predicted at all. At dawn today, all the schools were cancelled and we were ready for the storm!

Sadly, we only received about an inch more this morning. But it was enough that everything looked beautiful as it only can in after a fresh snowfall.

Not everyone was as excited as I was about the snow! Solomon, a indoor-only house cat, wasn't quite sure what to make of that white stuff.

His father, an indoor & outdoor cat, left some nice cat prints on the sidewalk.

The poor daffodils that we planted in the front floor bed got buried up the their necks. Luckily, this doesn't seem to bother them in the least bit. As spring bulbs, they seem prepared to take whatever Mother Nature might deliver.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February Surprises

On Sunday, when I was busy counting birds for the GBBC, I made two trips down to the big garden to see what bird species might have been eating at that feeder. After my second trip down, as I was walking back to the house along "the secret path", a flash of color caught my eye at ground level. I spied a burst of purple among the brown leaves and dead grass. Violets! While I have large drifts of white & purple violets in the "lawn" around the big garden, I have never seen any violets here. What a wonderful surprise.

I also discovered that the Shooting Stars along path have just begun to break thought the earth and return for another year. There were dozens and dozens just like this one shooting upwards. The question is, how many blossoms will I get this year?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend marks the annual Great Backyard Bird Count . From Friday February 18th through Monday February 21st,  birders of all skill levels are invited to take 15 minutes out of their day to record what birds - in what numbers - they find in their backyard. The GBBC is put on by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society in conjunction with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada. By gathering data from all over North America, scientists are presented with a "snapshot" of real-time bird populations. This information lets the scientists understand how different species are handling the effects of Winter, how they are combating diseases such as West Nile Virus, and gives them an idea how the timing of this years migration might compare to last years. I learned of this count late Friday and talked my sister into giving it a go. She started on Saturday and submitted her results and I joined in for the count today. We have 6 bird feeders on our property. Within view of your house windows we have 4 feeders filled with seed and 1 with suet. These bird feeders primarily attract birds suited to open areas such as meadows & fields. They also receive a smattering of forest dwellers who quickly eat before flying back to the edge of our woods. The 6th feeder is a seed feeder that I have down by my big garden. It is edged by Douglas Fir and primarily has the forest dweller as customers.

I spent a lot of today in our Dining Room looking out the window at the suet feeder. I was thrilled when I heard the familiar "chip" of a Hairy Woodpecker. Soon afterward this female showed up. She flitted back and forth from the suet feeder to the mullein stalks. But then................

her partner joined her! He has a very striking red patch on the back of his head.

I was so pleased to have seen both sexes together on the day of the count. The last time that I saw them both at the feeder was at Christmas, while we were enjoying our dinner. But then it only got better..........

Excuse me, I have a reservation here....... A male Red-Shafted Northern Flicker joined the party!

I have never seen three members of the Woodpecker family together at any of our feeders before. Between the suet feeder and the dead mullein stalks, there was plenty of food for everyone and they all seemed to get along quite well.

Northern Flickers are fairly common on our property year around. But from a-far, as I normally see them, you just can not appreciate fully the beautiful colors and patterns on their feathers.

This guy was aware that I was watching him but didn't seem to concerned about it.

He even managed to share the suet feeder in good humor. As you can see, he is noticeably larger than the Hairy Woodpeckers.

And, to prove I didn't spent my whole day at the suet feeder, here is a handsome Mourning Dove at one of the seed feeders. They are ground feeders and do a good job cleaning up all of the spilled food underneath the seed feeders.

When the days was all done, we took our tally sheet and sent in our day's count on-line. Here is what we could 100% identify correctly that we saw today. There we other birds, mainly in the finch family, that we have great numbers of, but can't identify without question.
  • 2 Red-tailed Hawks
  • 1 Anna's Hummingbird
  • 2 Hairy Woodpeckers
  • 1 Downy Woodpecker
  • 1 Red-Shafted Northern Flicker
  • 1 Pileated Woodpecker
  • 8 Steller's Jay
  • 2 Western Scrub Jay
  • 8 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 36 Mourning Dove
  • 1 American Robin
  • 1 European Starling
  • 3 Spotted Toehee
  • 12 Dark-eyed Junco

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More February Color

When we woke up this morning, last night's snowfall has all melted but it was still cold with a biting wind. We were up early because today was the first day of the Hellebore Open Garden Days at Northwest Garden Nursery. Located just west of Eugene, Northwest Garden Nursery is owned by Ernie & Marietta O'Byrne. While the O'Byrnes grow many unique perennials, they have become famous the last few years for their hybridizing efforts with Hellebores. They have greatly increased the color variations available as well as expanded the blooms from singles to doubles and beyond. We attended the Open House last year, but arrived on the second day only to discover that they were already sold out! This year we arrived right at 10 AM when they opened and hit the hoop house first to do our shopping! Once we had picked out 5 beauties to take home, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the garden.

Besides Hellebores, the gardens are filled with lovely trees and plants. Even though we are still deep in Winter, there was bursts of color everywhere that you looked. I really loved this big drift of snowdrops.

And how beautiful is this large clump of Cyclamen.

I really like the contrast in color of the slate blue/grey with the blood red on this Agave.

A bamboo screen used to define the back of the garden.

Some pretty mottled foliage.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seed Savers Exchange

We are fortunate to have dozens of quality seed companies here in the United States focused on providing an amazing array of seeds. Many of these catalogs are increasingly offering more and more open-pollinated, heirloom varieties that have stood the test of time. This resurgence of heirloom seeds in commercial catalogs is due in a large part to the work of The Seed Savers Exchange. Founded in 1975 by Kent & Diane Ott Whealy, the Seed Savers Exchange has made it its mission to collect, maintain and distribute heirloom vegetable varieties. Today, S.S.E. has over 13,000 members. I am proud to say that I have been a member for over 15 years and would encourage anyone interested in growing- and eating - heirloom vegetables to join. Membership includes receiving the annual yearbook and 3 issues of the The Heritage Farm Companion.

This year, when I received my renewal card in the mail, my packet also included a free packet of "Grandpa Admire's" Lettuce. How cool is that. Who knows what variety you might get ?! And if you are anywhere near Decorah, Iowa you are welcome to drop in at Heritage Farm and take a tour. Every July they have their Annual Camp-out Convention featuring speakers, demonstrations and lots of good fellowship. I haven't made it there yet, but certainly hope to sometime in the near future. But best of all, anyone can request their amazing catalog for free and try some new varieties this year.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Winter Sunshine

Well, they didn't quite make it in January, but the "Early Sensation" daffodils are now in full bloom. We have had another week of mild temperatures in the 50's. I read in the paper this week that the Long Tom Grange is moving up their annual Daffodil Drive Festival from the 3rd week of March to the 2nd week of March because the plants are so far ahead this year.

One of the many practical reasons for keeping a garden journal or having a blog is to have a concrete record of "what really happened" in previous years. I am always so sure that I will remember everything form year to year. But, as I look at last February's blog post, I can now see that these same daffodils were blooming by the 7th and we were having a spell of warm & mild weather. Hmmm..doesn't that all sound familiar!